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Wednesday, 15 November

01:11

Ignoring the benefits of childrens work openDemocracy

Work can have many benefits for children. Policy responses need to understand and foster those benefits, not succumb to biases that assume all work is bad.

Burkina Faso. Ollivier Girard/CIFOR/Flickr. CC (by-nc-nd)

In many parts of the world and in many cultures, children grow up by imitating, and gradually contributing to, the activities taking place around them, including work. Work is a normal part of life and children increasingly participate as they grow up to be responsible social people. There are numerous instances of childrens lives being disrupted and damaged by attempts to protect working children by prohibiting them from working, a good number of which have been discussed on this website. Many other children grow up deprived of benefits that appropriate work could have conveyed. Children all too frequently pay the price when people behind policy and intervention are so tied up with the perceived risks of childrens work that they ignore the benefits that work conveys. I shall consider why this happens, but first I shall briefly outline some of the key benefits of work for children and young people.1

Economic benefits

The most obvious benefit from work is economic. The importance of this benefit for those in extreme poverty or in severe crisis, when childrens work is necessary to provide for survival, is obvious to all. But it is precisely in such cases that work becomes excessive and often hazardous, and childrens agency becomes very constrained: harmful child labour becomes an indicator that something is wrong. Intervention is urgent to relieve the poverty and material needs that lie behind the work: indeed, the ILO has embarked on programmes of poverty relief,2 which is the only way likely to improve the situation for children.3

Apart from relieving severe poverty, childrens work can result in improvements to the quality of life for themselves and for their families.

However, it is...

00:13

Bizarre bureaucratic dysfunction in child labour openDemocracy

The ILO, UNICEF, and the Committee on the Rights of the Child promote policies known to harm children. What will make them engage with their critics?

Adolescents working in Dhaka, Bangladesh. BBC World Service/Flickr. CC (by-nc)

In the name of child protection, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) promote the worldwide adoption and enforcement of a policy that seeks to ban most children below the age of adolescence from working. This is articulated through the ILOs Minimum Age Convention (No. 138) and through corresponding national minimum age laws, all of which are being lauded right now at the IV World Conference on the Eradication of Child Labour.

The desire to separate children from work is rooted in a culturally peculiar idea contrary to social science findings and much child-rearing wisdom. This holds that there is something unnatural about children engaging in even properly supervised part-time work, and that work somehow undermines childhood and impedes or distorts childrens development.

Policies banning children from work exclusively on the basis of their age are more likely to harm children than to help them.

From a scientific standpoint, this is ridiculous. While dangerous or excessive work certainly can threaten childrens well-being, the evidence does not suggest that under normal circumstances the work done by most young children as part of growing up is harmful. To the contrary, it is more likely to be a valuable means of their instruction and socialisation.

Enforcement of a generalised ban on all work by children below middle adolescence not only contravenes sensible child-rearing practice, but has been found by a large number of researchers to have unanticipated consequences that harm many of the very children it seeks to protect.

Such intervention in childrens work can trap them in poverty, impede their access to schooling, and...

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Tuesday, 14 November

23:27

The globalisation of dignity openDemocracy

Working children have been prevented from attending the ILOs child labour conference, currently taking place in Buenos Aires. So they set up their own conference instead.

Ethiopia. Rod Waddington/Flickr. CC (by)

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC) has provided for children to be heard in all matters concerning them. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has excluded anyone under the age of 18 from the IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour, currently taking place in Buenos Aires. Supposedly for their protection.

In October, around 300 children, adolescents, academics, NGOs, governmental representatives from Bolivia and working children from Latin America, Europe and West Africa gathered in La Paz, Bolivia, as an alternative meeting to discuss the policies of the ILO and the Bolivian government. The Bolivian government has been heavily criticised by the ILO for its law on children and adolescents adopted by the parliament three years ago. Because that prioritises the protection of working children against a general ban of their work. In addition, the working children took stock of 41 years of their organisational history.

Peter Strack interviewed Professor Manfred Liebel, one of the co-organisers of the meeting, after the results.

Manfred Liebel: The forum really made a dialogue between the generations possible. This was unusual for the invited researchers, many of the scientists were in Bolivia for the first time. But, for example, Karl Hanson's speech on ILO policy helped explain that the ILO used to hold a pragmatic position on childrens work until the 1980s. It promoted a minimum age through ILO Convention 138, but at the same time also advocated protective measures for children who were working. After that, the position of the ILO has become increasingly hardened and ideologised.

Peter Strack: Why is that?

ML: Unfortunately, the trade unions are responsible. They used to be far more open in the 1980s...

23:24

Open Letter: complaint to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child openDemocracy

After being excluded from the IV Global Conference on the Eradication of Child Labour, working children and adolescents complain to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. Espaol

Dang Ke Duc/ILO/Flickr. CC (by-nc-nd)

In exercise of our right to have an opinion (Article 12, United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child [CRC])1, we, the working children and adolescents of the Latin American and Caribbean Movement, send you this written complaint. We hope to be heard and that our opinions will duly be taken into account.

Seeking to exercise our rights as per Article 12 of the CRC, we asked the organisers to let us participate in the IV World Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from November 14 to 16 of this year. Not only was this right to participate denied us, but it was denied to anyone under 18 years of age, for security reasons.

Without fully understanding the reasons for this violation of our rights, we ask ourselves: Do they want to protect us or do they want to protect themselves against us? Could it be that they do not want to hear what we have to say? We think it is serious that the people they will be talking about will be prohibited from engaging in their conversations. In addition to the violation of Article 12, Article 2 is also being violated2, because we cannot avoid feeling discriminated against: we are prevented from entering purely and exclusively because of our age.

Having been forbidden to speak at this conference, we send you, dear members of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, what we would have wanted to say there, trusting that you will value and take into account our words.

We think it is serious that the people they will be talking about will be prohibited from engaging in their conversations.

With the establishment of minimum ages...

22:54

Radiant City: The Marseilles Housing Unit architectsforsocialhousing

In April of this year ASH visited the Unit dhabitation in Marseilles, the first and most influential of Le Corbusiers Housing Units, which was completed in 1952 and repeated, with variations, in Nantes-Rez (1955), in Berlin-Westend (1957), in Briey (1963) and in Firminy (1965). Itself influenced by the Constructivist Narkomfin building in Moscow (1930), Le Corbussiers model of public housing had a huge influence on Brutalist architecture, and inspired the design of a huge number of housing estates in the UK, including to name just a few the Park Hill estate (1961) in Sheffield, the Alton estate (1958), the Samuda estate (1965), Balfron Tower (1967), Trellick Tower (1972), Robin Hood Gardens (1972) and the Barbican estate (1981), all of which are in London. Ironically, the reinforced, rough-finished concrete (bton brut) from which the Housing Unit was constructed, and which gave its name to this movement in architecture, was necessitated because the steel frame Le Corbusier had envisaged using proved too expensive under the shortage of steel in post-war France.

In his...

21:46

Time to take working children seriously openDemocracy

On the occasion of the IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour, it is time to listen to working children on what works for them and what doesnt.

Child working leather. Alexander Montuschi/Flickr. CC (by-nc)

From November 14 to 16 November 2017, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) is holding its fourth Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour in Buenos Aires, Argentina. At this event, a high-level panel will discuss changes that will define the criteria for acceptable future working conditions for children. For child rights activists and all other actors with an interest in the welfare of working children, this is an opportune moment to take stock of global efforts to abolish child labour.

The choice of South America as regional venue for this years conference is symbolic. Not only because this region hosted the previous meeting, but also because, in 2014, Bolivia, Argentinas neighbour to the south, amended its laws to provide an exception for allowing children aged 10 years and older to carry out independent work and other income-earning activities. Two important observations can be made of this amendment.

First, it is a serious repudiation of the ILOs long-held position, enshrined in the controversial Minimum Age Convention, that only children aged 14 and over should be permitted formal employment or work. Second, this paradigmatic shift would not have occurred without intense lobbying by the Bolivian Union of Child and Adolescent Workers (UNATSBO), an organised group of working children and youth in the country.

The instrumentality of UNATSBO in the Bolivian case and the rising prominence of working children and youth associations over the world in the last decade increasingly raises questions about the ILOs approach to child labour and to working children. In Bolivia and elsewhere, working children and their advocates have long argued that their work is not the problem ...

20:36

Frontpage 14th November openDemocracy

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19:00

Extorted and exploited: Haitian labourers on Dominican sugar plantations openDemocracy

Haiti, a former sugar colony, was formed through the rebellion of slaves, yet now many Haitians find themselves completely subordinated to the private sugar companies of the Dominican Republic.

Cane cutters in the Dominican Republic. Photo by author. All rights reserved.

"We are like slaves in freedom, we work and we do not earn any money, we work for nothing ... we cannot even buy shoes, a shirt, a pair of pants ... we are like slaves in freedom because we are free to leave the job, we know that there are other places to go and work. We can leave, so we are free. But when one does this job he is like a slave, a prisoner, because without money he can't go wherever he wants. He has to stay and pay debts at the shop ... and then the job has to be finished."

With these words, Junior, a 22-year-old Haitian labourer, described to me his condition and that of many of his fellow migrants. They had left Haiti the poorest country in the Americas in search of better life opportunities, and now find themselves working under conditions of severe exploitation in the sugarcane fields of the Dominican Republic.

Cane clippers remain at the mercy of a reckless logic that decisively binds daily work with the ability to feed oneself.

They live in small, invisible migrant communities not far the heavenly beaches that attract thousands of tourists to the Dominican Republic every year. Known as bateyes, they are non-existent places on most of the country's geographic maps. Designed and built to accommodate sugarcane workers only during the harvest season (December to June), the bateyes have become real social communities inhabited by whole families of men, women and children. Some data suggest there are approximately 425 bateyes in the Dominican Republic, with a combined population of over 200,000 individuals. These, however, are rough estimates, as there is no official census and most residents are in the country irregularly.

In the bateyes, labourers and their families are housed in dozens in crumbling cabins without the most elementary services running water, electricity, a toilet and they spend up to 12 hours a day in the fields. Without protective equipment, and without health insurance and social security, cane clippers remain at the mercy...

18:52

How communication technology became a tool of repression: the case of the UAE openDemocracy

With the help of international cyber security dealers, the internet has been transformed into a central component of authoritarian control.

Giant poster dedicated to Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, located near the Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi. Picture by Artur Widak/NurPhoto USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, as counter-revolution casts its repressive shadow across the Middle East and North Africa, the tools that a short while ago enabled revolutionary organisation on a mass scale have subsequently changed hands.

Once celebrated, and in some quarters credited, as playing the defining role in the Arab uprisings of 2011, social media and the internet more broadly have now been transformed into a central component of authoritarian control, as the balance of power has shifted firmly away from the masses in the region.

This is evident in the United Arab Emirates where government critics, bloggers and human rights defenders have been disappearing at an alarming rate as a result of their social media activity, while dozens of online news publications from the Huffington Post to Al Jazeera have been blocked by the authorities for publicly expressing views counter to that of the state.

Since 2011, Gulf rulers have passed legislations that effectively criminalise criticism of their regimes. In a bid to quell the harbingers of revolt, authorities have tightened their control over information and communication technologies.

For a brief moment, the internet provided a space within Emirati society where debate, criticism and ideas thrived

In the UAE this control came in the form of the cybercrime law, approved in November 2012 by Emirati president Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed. Its vaguely worded provisions effectively outlawed the use of information technology as means to argue for political reform, criticise senior officials or organise unsolicited demonstrations, enabling Emirati authorities to clamp down more efficiently on dissenting voices within their borders.

This cyber crackdown materialised in response to the faint rumblings of discontent which began to manifest themselves in the Emirates. As revolutions engulfed the...

06:39

First part of the DUP deal funds goes to Health & Education Slugger O'Toole

The Secretary of State has announced the first part of the DUP deal will go to Health & Education, the amount will come to 50 million.

From the BBC

The announcement was made as Mr Brokenshire brought a Northern Ireland budget before the House of Commons.

The secretary of state told MPs that civil servants can decide how to spend the extra 50m earmarked for health and education.

Here is the DUP Deputy Leader;

 

05:03

Why won't Boris Johnson issue an unequivocal apology? AAV


Last week Boris Johnson made one of the most extraordinary gaffes a British Foreign Secretary has ever made by uncritically repeating Iranian accusations against an imprisoned British citizen as if they were fact.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (who remains in an Iranian jail), her family and the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office all consistently maintained that she was in Iran on holiday, with the purpose of introducing her young daughter to her Iranian parents. Despite this, Johnson decided to declare that she was in Iran "teaching journalism", which is precisely what the Iranians have imprisoned her for.

The Iranian authorities have taken Johnson's foolish remarks as confirmation that Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in the country training propaganda agents, and the case against her has been reopened with the possibility of her jail sentence being dramatically extended.

After a week of blustering, evasions and carefully qualified non-apologies Johnson was called to parliament to answer urgent questions over his disgraceful handling of the Zaghari-Ratcliffe case.

Here's exactly what he said:
"I acknowledge that the words that I used were open to being misinterpreted and I apologise to Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family if I have inadvertently caused them any further anguish."
As we can see, this is another half-apology based on the false narrative that his words had been "misinterpreted" rather than being completely at odds with the established Foreign Office position that she was there on holiday.

...

02:33

Shame has to switch sides Feminist activist Inna Shevchenko on #MeToo openDemocracy

The Femen 'partisan' talks about #MeToo protests and why a recent Roman Polanski celebration in France was an insult to all women.

2017 should be marked as another victory in womens rights, womens fights and feminism in general, says feminist activist Inna Shevchenko. Finally, people have been forced to turn their heads and look," she said, about the sexual abuse scandals and #MeToo protests that have erupted in recent weeks.

Why didnt women speak up about their experiences of abuse before? Shevchenko said she was shocked to hear people ask such questions. Societys ears that were ignorant and closed towards our issues, she said.

Shevchenkos activist group Femen is best known for its controversial use of nudity as a form of feminist protest. She spoke about #MeToo on the sidelines of last weeks World Forum for Democracy (WFD) in Strasbourg.

Women have been speaking up about sexual harassment and abuse "forever," though few have been listening, said Shevchenko. Its time for shame and fear to switch sides, she argued, from survivors to perpetrators.

Moana Genevey (left) and Inna Shevchenko. Moana Genevey (left) and Inna Shevchenko. Photo: Lara Whyte.Shevchenko said growing attention to womens experiences of abuse has made 2017 a year of feminist victory. She also talked about a recent Roman Polanski celebration in France, and why it was an insult to all women."

Polanski fled statutory rape charges in the US in the 1970s and has lived in France since....

02:01

Tory MP hails clampdown on student visas after getting one for his Brazilian girlfriend Pride's Purge

Tory MP Robert Halfon has been crowing a lot about how the Tory government is controlling immigration by clamping down on foreign students who come to the UK on non-degree student visas (click to enlarge):

But Halfons keenness for stopping foreign students coming to the UK on non-degree student visas doesnt seem to stretch enough to include his own Brazilian girlfriend (from Halfons blog, 2009):

...

01:46

Not just another political party openDemocracy

On November 8, members voted an overwhelming 'YES!' to the proposal that DiEM25 should be able to compete in elections includng the European elections of 2019, while remaining a movement.

The European Parliament. CC.

Introduction

We consider the model of national parties which form flimsy alliances at the level of the European Parliament to be obsolete. While the fight for democracy-from below (at the local, regional or national levels) is necessary, it is nevertheless insufficient if it is conducted without an internationalist strategy toward a pan-European coalition for democratising Europe.

European democrats must come together first, forge a common agenda, and then find ways of connecting it with local communities and at the regional and national level.

- Extract from the Manifesto of DiEM25

From the day DiEM25 was inaugurated in Berlin, in February 2016, we have been saying that we have no urge to contest elections, in the daily hustle of what passes for politics. We would rather continue in our chosen areas of activism, while supporting existing progressive political parties.

Alas, Europes crisis and slow descent into a quagmire of incompetent authoritarianism does not give us the right to do so. The window for us to effect change is closing and this has become even more pressing after the recent German election which killed off the last remaining hope for a federalist democratic push by Macron and Merkel.

Time is running short. If DiEM25 is to make any impact on the 2019 pan-European (EP) elections; if our movement really wants to act before Europe disintegrates; if we want to redress climate change or the dominance of xenophobia before it is too late, we must decide soon.

We need to seize every opportunity available to us. This is especially important for our European New Deal economic agenda our proposals (a) to stabilise the Eurozone by me...

01:36

Government advertising and the viability of Mexican media openDemocracy

You just have to follow the money trail: who benefits from the 38.000 million pesos in government advertising that President Enrique Pea Nieto spent, to date? Espaol

Three Azcrraga generations and Enrique Pea Nieto. Photo: Cuartoscuro.

This article is being published as part of the partnership between Sin Embargo and democraciaAbierta. You can read the original article here.

In Mexico, if you want your video on a political and/or government-related issue to get significant views on YouTube, you have several options, including two that are actually safe bets: the first is to give it a title saying: "What you won't see on Televisa", or "What Televisa does not want you to see"; the second is to encourage people to watch your video "before the government deletes it".

Many ideas wear out, of course - especially in the Net. You have to find the right formula, but a good idea is a winning one for a long time if you keep on updating it. Just look at Televisa. It has been exploiting the same formula for decades: offering rubbish to Mexicans from its media monopoly (duopoly) and delivering goods to the government of the day. In other words: stupefying the population by choice and, for business reasons, being always at the service of politicians, parties and governments that let it keep on exploiting those it is stupefying. 

Televisa is the most obvious case, but not the only one. Just follow the money trail: who benefits from the 38.000 million pesos in government advertising that President Enrique Pea Nieto spent, to date? On what will he spend the 60 billion pesos which, it is reckoned, the current federal administration will be spending in total in this six-year term?

If a successful idea for a YouTube video is exploited over the years, it will obviously wear itself out. This is happening with the "Anonymous" videos, which are no longer anonymous. And this is happening to Televisa too: its owners, the Azcrragas, for three generations...

01:27

Isn't it incredible what right-wing Brexiteers are trying to pass off as "the will of the people"? AAV


Had the Brexit campaigners actually ever come up with a serious policy document outlining their plans for how to manage the Brexit transition period, and a proposal for what post-Brexit Britain was to look like, I would have given the idea of quitting the EU some serious consideration. But since there was no policy document, nor any outline of realistic objectives, it was beyond obvious that the whole thing would turn into an extraordinarily damaging let's make it up as we go along Tory administered farce.

And just look at the state of it now:
  • We've passed the halfway point between the Brexit vote and the deadline of March 29th 2019, we're still completely stalled on the very first phase of the negotiations!
  • The fanatical hard-right faction of the Tory party are propagandising ever more loudly for a ruinous "no deal" flounce out of Europe, and they're continuing to drag their weak and directionless leader ever closer to the economic cliff edge. 
  • Tories like Liam Fox are proposing reductions in UK consumer protections and product standards as part of a UK-US trade deal. Any such reductions would render access to the Single Market impossible because continued free trade between the UK and EU would create a gateway for...

01:21

Michelle ONeill Theresa May has prioritised her own electoral survival via the Tory/DUP pact over the interest of all of the people in the North Slugger O'Toole

Michelle ONeill remarks at the end of the talks process today;

 

The British Secretary of State will today move to introduce a budget to finance public services here. This is an acknowledgement by the British Government that agreement has not been possible.

The reason for this is the DUP opposition to a rights-based society. While some progress was made, the denial of rights would not be tolerated in Dublin and London and should not be tolerated here. We met the DUP this morning and told them this.

Since March of this year Sinn Fin has been seeking agreement on the implementation of outstanding commitments as a basis for restoring public trust and confidence in the institutions.

Sinn Fin were flexible, we were willing to stretch ourselves to achieve a breakthrough and we were right to do so.

The DUPs resistance to the implementation of previous agreements and particularly rights available everywhere else in these islands means that there is not a locally-elected Executive to take decisions.

The British government has been complicit in this, backing the DUPs refusal to honour the commitments previously made and blocking the delivery of equality.

Theresa May has prioritised her own electoral survival via the Tory/DUP pact over the interest of all of the people in the North.

This is compounded by the DUPs refusal to accept the vote in the North to reject Brexit. The DUP are committed to the North being dragged out of the EU against the will and the interests of people here.

Last Friday we told the British PM that direct rule is not an option.

In the absence of the Assembly and Executive the choice for both governments is between the protection of the Good Friday Agreement or its abandonment.

These issues arent going away. It is now the responsibility of the two governments to look to the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement and for a British-Irish intergovernmental conference to meet as soon as possible.

We have sought urgent meetings with both the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister. The way forward now is for the two governments to fulfil their responsibility as co-guarantors of the Good Friday and St Andrews Agreements, to honour outstanding commitments, and to deliver rights enjoyed by everyone else on these islands to people here.

This would pave the way for the Executive to be restored.

01:00

Defending Ukraines revolution against Ukraines leaders openDemocracy

Leshchenko.pngAs Ukraines oligarchic status quo re-asserts its power, the countrys international partners need to step up their support for democracy.


12 November: demonstrators carry banners as they walk along through Kyiv during the "March of the Outraged" action. Photo(c): Olena Khudiakova/Zuma Press/PA Images. All rights reserved.
Ukraines president Petro Poroshenko is spending his fourth autumn in power against a background of protest protests provoked by the presidents lack of desire to fulfill his own promises in the fight against corruption. Pressure from the street still isnt enough to break the wall the authorities have built around themselves, but protests are provoking conflicts inside Ukraines ruling coalition, where the war against an external enemy is moving into a stage of internal conflict.

Poroshenko is an avid user of Instagram, where earlier this year he congratulated Ukrainian citizens on the European Unions decision to grant Ukraine a visa-free regime. This is a final break with Russia after a 300-year union, wrote Poroshenko, who, in recent months, has begun to abuse patriotic rhetoric.

There were expectations that Poroshenko, who took office off the back of the EuroMaidan street protests, would enact radical reforms in Ukraine. But the oligarchs instinct to convert political status into material benefits has prevented him from breaking the corruption status quo.

Today, Ukraines democracy is entering a period of turbulence

Poroshenko may have suffered from the repressive system of the state in the past, but on becoming president, he did not change the state ideology,...

00:44

Syrian cultural work in Turkey: the marginalization continues Part I openDemocracy

The forced transition into Turkish life has difficulties that arent dissimilar to the sense of marginalization that many Syrians have become accustomed to and continue to face  in their homeland. 

Louai Barakat/Zuma Press/Press Association Images. All rights reserved. May 15, 2017 - The Alasalah is a group of Syrian youth and Syrian artists interested in reviving traditional Arab artistic tradition, with particular focus on Syrian heritage. They are involved in poetry, acting, music, song and dance. Louai Barakat/Zuma Press/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.Since the Syrian revolution, cultural activity has been of great political importance. Decades of political deprivation and the lack of means for political work in Syria led those interested in public affairs to find their ways into various types of cultural work as a means of having potential political impact.

Even when cultural actors in pre-revolutionary Syria didnt directly seek to give political or social weight to their cultural work, that burden was placed on them in one way or another. This pre-revolutionary cultural work was distinct because it was to attribute its responsibility to different parties; either to the state and its various supervisory bodies, or to members of opposition parties that saw it as the only available platform for political resistance. Therefore, the product was evaluated based on its political connections.

It seems that the dialectic of pre-revolutionary Syria continues to provide valid analysis of the current Syrian cultural scene, despite all the geographical changes to Syria within its various spheres of power, as well as analysis of the millions of Syrians spread out to several countries abroad. This dialectic can help us understand the reality of Syri...

00:17

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Monday, 13 November

23:54

Hiding the DUP dark money: The fraud of so-called transparency openDemocracy

Theresa May's government is cowering behind walls of secrecy.

Theresa May. Image, Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

If a government is more about what it hides than what it shows, then Theresa Mays dysfunctional administration deserves a monument in Whitehall that resembles a dark hollow tower of bricks that lets out no light.

The link between accountability and transparency is as weak inside Mays misfiring, mismanaged government as it has been in any post-war Westminster regime. Given the warped culture of dishonesty and narcissistic sense of righteousness that marked Tony Blairs later years in office, the alarm bells should be loud for what currently passes as democratic disclosure.

The business of government is, on Mays watch, none of our business. Rather than sunlight as disinfectant  once a stated ambition of David Cameron May prefers only an illusion of transparency.  Her administrations openness comes with walls designed to hide behind, such as the 50 secret studies on the impact of leaving the European Union that David Daviss Brexit department has refused to publish.

The formal Whitehall excuse? Simply that the government cannot divulge any detail which would impact the deal Britain wants from Brussels. And what is that deal? They wont say.

This dysfunction, a parody of honesty, was also on show in the faux-resignation letter of Priti Patel to the prime minister. The former international development secretary wrote that her actions fell below the standards of transparency and openness that I have promoted and advocated.

What transparency? Patel got caught holding meetings she kept secret from Number 10 and the Foreign Office. She was conducting a freelance foreign policy operation aided by the Conservative Friends of Israel lobby group. Openness was never in the frame.

A wall to hide behind

The latest wall for the government to hide behind just as they proclaim full transparency is necessary and right is being constructed by the Northern Ireland Secretary.

Earlier this year James Brokenshire said the...

22:56

Brexit and embracing our new found status as the Poland of the British Isles Slugger O'Toole

I got a query this morning from a reader in Dublin who plans to come up for our End of Year Review event. They wanted to know what time the event ended so they could book the bus back home. I suggested a better idea, stay over and make a night of it. The new Premier Inn Hotel is less than a one minute walk to the venue and is only a bonkersly cheap 35 a night!

Since Brexit the pound has dropped like a stone and the Euro and are nearly at parity, making Northern Ireland extremely cheap for visitors from the south and other Euro areas. Are Tourism NI running ads in Dublin saying come to Northern Ireland, its cheap as chips? You would hope so. 110 a night for a 5 Star stay in the Lough Erne Golf Resort? Sign me up buttercup.

In addition to tourism, exports are now also cheaper, which is good news for manufacturers.

In my own area of IT services costs can be less than half the going rate in the North compared to Dublin. If you are a professional looking more work, hop on the Enterprise pronto. There is a huge skill shortage in Dublin. A canny business in Dublin should export their back office and other business functions to satellite offices in Northern Ireland and save themselves a small fortune.

My post title is not intended as negative. Poland has a great image as a cheap travel destination. And when it comes to Polish workers they have a fantastic reputation. They are the backbone of many a business in Ireland and the UK.

I have written before how I think Brexit will be a complete disaster for Northern Ireland but even I have to admit there can be some upsides to our new found competitiveness. We have traditionally been a low-cost area but now we are really low cost we are talking Poundland low.

Any other suggestions on how we can embrace our new(er) low-cost status?

22:15

Its time to call the housing crisis what it really is: the largest transfer of wealth in living memory openDemocracy

Wealth amassed through the housing market has come straight out of the pockets of those who don't own property. 

One of the basic claims of capitalism is that people are rewarded in line with their effort and productivity. Another is that the economy is not a zero sum game. The beauty of a capitalist economy, we are told, is that people who work hard can get rich without making others poorer. But how does this stack up in modern Britain, the birthplace of capitalism and many of its early theorists? Last week, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released new data tracking how wealth has evolved over time. On paper, the UK has indeed become much wealthier in recent decades. Net wealth has more than tripled since 1995, increasing by over 7 trillion. This is equivalent to an average increase of nearly 100,000 per person. Impressive stuff. But where has all this wealth come from, and who has it benefitted? Just over 5 trillion, or three quarters of the total increase, is accounted for by increase in the value of dwellings another name for the UK housing stock. The Office for National Statistics explains that this is largely due to increases in house prices rather than a change in the volume of dwellings. This alone is not particularly surprising. We are forever told about the importance of getting a foot on the property ladder. The housing market has long been viewed as a perennial source of wealth. But the price of a property is made up of two distinct components: the price of the building itself, and the price of the land that the structure is built upon. This year the ONS has separated out these two components for the first time, and the results are quite astounding. In just two decades the market value of land has quadrupled, increasing recorded wealth by over 4 trillion. The driving force behind rising house prices -- and the UK's growing wealth -- has been rapidly escalating land prices. For those who own property, this has provided enormous benefits. According to the Resolution Foundation, homeowners born in the 1940s and 1950s gained an unearned windfall of 80,000 between 1993 and 2014 alone. In the early 2000s, house price growth was so great that 17% of working-age adults earned more from their house than from their job. Last week...

21:01

Frontpage 13th November openDemocracy

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20:45

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19:50

Hong Kong democracy activist Agnes Chow: it's never easy to fight for what we believe in openDemocracy

Founding member of the Demosist political party talked to World Forum for Democracy youth delegates about the importance of social movements and direct action.

Agnes Chow. Agnes Chow. Photo: Okstartnow/Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons (CC0 1.0).Agnes Chow was still a teenager in September 2014, when she joined thousands of other young people on the streets of Hong Kong, in a historic pro-democracy protest lasting 79 days that became known as the umbrella movement.

Last week Chow travelled to Strasbourg, France, to attend the Council of Europes 2017 World Forum for Democracy (WFD). This years event focused on populism and the crises of traditional political party and media institutions.

Its never easy, she said, to take on an authoritarian regime, and to fight for things we believe in. Chow spoke to WFD youth delegates Karla Ng and Skye Riggs on the sidelines of the conference.

Protest is important even though it might fail, even though it might not be a success every time, she said. Its not easy to fight for democracy, but the most important thing is we should not give up.

Agnes Chow talks to WFD youth delegates. Agnes Chow talks to WFD youth delegates. Photo: Claire Provost.Now 21, Chow is a student at Hong Kong Baptist University and one of the founding members of Demosist, a new political party formed last year by some of the organisers of the 2014 umbrella movement protests.

Those demonstrations saw tens...

19:00

Agricultural investments in Tanzania: economic opportunities or new forms of exploitation? openDemocracy

Many are celebrating the fact that Tanzania is welcoming private investors in the agricultural sector, but who is really benefitting from these investments and at what cost?

1222041549_cbf2c70525_o.jpgTruck transporting sugar cane. Erin Collins/Flickr. (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Since its turn towards privatisation in the 90s, Tanzania has been adhering to the dominant narrative of international institutions and its main donors by actively seeking to attract foreign direct investments (FDI). Indeed, the Tanzanian state has bought into the presiding neoliberal rationale, which contends that welcoming investors will help modernise and increase productivity in the agricultural sector, and will thereby foster socio-economic development at the local and national levels. Yet, the extent to which such agricultural investments effectively contribute to local socio-economic development remains open for debate.

The truth is that standard and depoliticised economic development indicators such as the creation of employment, small-scale farmers access to credit and technology, and the overall amount of capital invested in the sector do not offer an adequate, or comprehensive picture of the effects of these investments at the local level. Instead, these measurement tools tend to obscure the social costs of these large-scale agricultural investments, mostly borne by the most poor and vulnerable Tanzanians.

To uncover the impacts of these investments, it is crucial to more thoroughly investigate newly created employment opportunities and working conditions, and to consider their collateral impacts on locals access and rights to land and the political configurations of power. Based on my fieldwork in the north of Tanzanias Kagera region from 2016 to 2017, I aim to provide a more nuanced picture of the different ways investments affect locals, who are struggling to survive in an era of economic liberalisation and elite capture.

In 2004, as a part of Tanzanias drive towards privatisation, the Kagera Sugar estate was sold to the Tanzanian-owned Superdoll. Superdoll made substantial infrastructural investments, and managed to position Kagera Sugar as a key player in the national Tanzanian sugar industry. Kager...

Struggling on the wrong side of the chain: labour exploitation in global agriculture openDemocracy

This weeks special series discusses the working conditions, the dynamics of exploitation, and the degree of unfreedom of those trapped on the wrong side of local and global agriculture value chains.

Workers from the Palmas del Cesar African palm company in Colombia. Solidarity/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

In a famous passage of John Steinbecks novel The Grapes of Wrath (1939), a tenant farmer and a man on a tractor debate the banks demand that the latter demolish the formers house and drive him from the land his family had cultivated for generations:

 Sure, cried the tenant men, but its our land. We measured it and broke it up. We were born on it, and we got killed on it, died on it. Even if its no good, its still ours. Thats what makes it ours being born on it, working it, dying on it. Thats what makes ownership, not a paper with numbers on it.

Were sorry. Its not us. Its the monster. The bank isnt like a man.

Yes, but the bank is only made of men.

No, youre wrong there quite wrong there. The bank is something else than men. It happens that every man in a bank hates what the bank does, and yet the bank does it. The bank is something more than men, I tell you. Its the monster. Men made it, but they cant control it.

The monster that men created, but could not control, did not die with the Great Depression. It continues to resurface, assuming different names and forms across time and changing economic and political contexts. According to current neoliberal beliefs, there is a growing need for refined theoretical methodologies, technical procedures, and privatisation policies to develop what are increasingly known as effective agriculture value chains: i.e. the integrated range of value adding activities that theoretically link farmers to new global or regional markets, improve and rationalise agricultural production, and keep prices low for a growing global population.

As often happens, however, the naming of concept like agriculture value chain carries with it unintended meanings and a certain degree of bitter irony. For those who have dedicated themselves to the study of old and new slaveries and forms of labour exploitation in the agrarian sector, for example, the word chain acquires obviously a very different connotation. It evokes a number of questions about who possesses the power to forge, enlarge, and hold these chains, to make huge profits out of them, and to trap others within them.

The articl...

11:05

Time to challenge received wisdom about second Scottish referendum Newsnet.scot

Commentary by Carolyn McCole

I have a good friend. Lets call her Claire. We met in 2014. Our values and political opinions are pretty similar, though she was as stridently No as I was Yes. She called me on the morning of 19th September. Though shed never admit it, I sensed she too felt deflated.

You never know, she said, In five or so years, I might vote yes too. I was too upset to respond and admittedly felt there was little point now the vote had passed. But I wondered what did she want or expect the next five years to change?

Its all a matter of time. This is what we hear, time and again. The date of Indy Ref 2 has to be perfectly timed. Independence is a question of time. Now is not the time. The problem with time though, is eventually it runs out. At that point, you either completed the task or you didnt.

For generations, students entering exams have been given the same advice. Use the time available. Dont waste the first half an hour planning your approach. Dont give up with half an hour to go. The same advice applies to the Yes movement today and the clock is already ticking.

TRAPPINGS

Supporters of independence have waited long enough.  Post 2014, we confidently waited for the shit of a No vote to hit the fan. Then we watched as that shit repeatedly hit the fan, through EVEL, the trappings of the Smith Commission, HMRC job losses, disappearing frigates, reduced budgets, increased austerity and ultimately Brexit. Then we wondered how much shit needs to hit the fan before those who placed their no vote in good faith start to question the competency of our masters in Westminster?

Yet still we see passivity in response. The no vote hasnt significantly shifted. There might be a general acceptance that Brexit spells disaster, but this hasnt naturally evolved into the groundswell for independence which many expected. And why should it when there is not yet an alternative on the scale we saw in 2014 to gravitate towards? I think now of Claire. Three years have passed and shed still vote no. But what really have we done in that time to convince her otherwise? Yes there has been a lot of hard work behind the scenes, but for those dont watch political programmes or read a daily blog what messages have they received?

How many times have you heard agnostic voters say theyre sympathetic to the notion of independence, but dont want another referendum? Now is the time to challenge this reprise before it becomes established rhetoric. Accepting it only indulges the passivity and delays progress.

Of course theres a lot of fatigue. Theres voter fatigue after annual elections and referenda. Theres understandable activist fatigue after repeated campaigns into which foot soldiers across the country invested their heart and souls.

Theres also a legitimate fear of burnout. I used to think there was little point in campaigning wi...

10:11

Is Christianity finished as a source of inspiration for progressive social change? openDemocracy

Whatever the emerging world becomes, it will need a new consciousness to guide it, especially if we want that world to be a good one. 

Credit: Pixabay/Stocksnap. CC0 Creative Commons.

Were Christians to be in a position to exert enduring cultural influence, the results would likely be disastrous or perhaps mostly so. This is the judgment of University of Virginia sociologist James Davison Hunter, who coined the term culture wars in the 1980s, but its a sentiment thats shared by many on the left.

Given their flawed thinking about public life, says Hunterbased on both specious social science and problematic theologythere seems to be little future for the Christian faith as a motivating force in progressive politics in the USA and beyond. But is this judgment correct?

To put this question in context, the American Century is over. The institutions that sustained the modern industrial world (including many of the mainstream Christian churches) are rusting out, their legitimacy crisis dragging on like a festering wound since the Sixties.

Whether we like it or not, we are emerging into a different world. It feels strange to us. We cant see it clearly at this point, or even know what to call it. But whatever the emerging world will become it will need a new consciousness to guide it, especially if we want that world to be a good one.

Finding and articulating that new consciousness in order to re-imagine our societies is one of the central challenges of our timessupporting the growth of a wider, public sensibility and a progressive way of life in which peace, justice, love, hope and human flourishing can grow. To meet this challenge, I think well need to draw on imaginative resources wherever we can find them.

So its at least worth taking another look at Christianitys faith and practice, history and global diversity, theological ideas and spiritual traditions in order to see whether any of these things might offer us these kinds of resources. Can Christianity be critical enough of itself and of society to be a productive source of change? By this I dont mean that Christians should simply criticize. Weve had enough cranky, reactionary rhetoric from the uniquely American religious right in recent years to last a lifetime.

But keep in mind that as recently as the Sixties, Christian public identity in the US was claimed by the moderate-to-progressive Protestant mainline denominationsthe religious center-left. Progressive theologians including...

Is Christianity finished as a source of inspiration for progressive social change? openDemocracy

Whatever the emerging world becomes, it will need a new consciousness to guide it, especially if we want that world to be a good one. 

Credit: Pixabay/Stocksnap. CC0 Creative Commons.

Were Christians to be in a position to exert enduring cultural influence, the results would likely be disastrous or perhaps mostly so. This is the judgment of University of Virginia sociologist James Davison Hunter, who coined the term culture wars in the 1980s, but its a sentiment thats shared by many on the left.

Given their flawed thinking about public life, says Hunterbased on both specious social science and problematic theologythere seems to be little future for the Christian faith as a motivating force in progressive politics in the USA and beyond. But is this judgment correct?

To put this question in context, the American Century is over. The institutions that sustained the modern industrial world (including many of the mainstream Christian churches) are rusting out, their legitimacy crisis dragging on like a festering wound since the Sixties.

Whether we like it or not, we are emerging into a different world. It feels strange to us. We cant see it clearly at this point, or even know what to call it. But whatever the emerging world will become it will need a new consciousness to guide it, especially if we want that world to be a good one.

Finding and articulating that new consciousness in order to re-imagine our societies is one of the central challenges of our timessupporting the growth of a wider, public sensibility and a progressive way of life in which peace, justice, love, hope and human flourishing can grow. To meet this challenge, I think well need to draw on imaginative resources wherever we can find them.

So its at least worth taking another look at Christianitys faith and practice, history and global diversity, theological ideas and spiritual traditions in order to see whether any of these things might offer us these kinds of resources. Can Christianity be critical enough of itself and of society to be a productive source of change? By this I dont mean that Christians should simply criticize. Weve had enough cranky, reactionary rhetoric from the uniquely American religious right in recent years to last a lifetime.

But keep in mind that as recently as the Sixties, Christian public identity in the US was claimed by the moderate-to-progressive Protestant mainline denominationsthe religious center-left. Progressive theologians including...

05:05

Egypts faltering counter-insurgency strategy openDemocracy

There is a lack of preparedness in countering the insurgency and the wave of repression has not lead to an improved security situation, on the contrary, Cairo has now become more of a target.

Ahmed Gomaa/Xinhua News Agency/Press Association Images. All rights reserved. Egyptian security forces block the road at the site about 35 km away from where policemen were killed in a shootout in Giza, Egypt, Oct. 21, 2017. Ahmed Gomaa/Xinhua News Agency/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.In a devastating blow to Egypts counter insurgency efforts, 54 members of the security forces were reported killed during a security operation in the Farafra Oasis on 21 October. This oasis located a mere 135 km south-west of Cairo.

The exact number of those killed remains unknown. The interior ministry issued an official statement claiming that only 16 police offers had been killed, whereas security officials initially stated that 59 had been killed. The Egyptian government criticized international media for inflating the number of causalities.

At first the government held the Hassm group responsible; a group it claims is the armed wing of the Muslim Brotherhood - even though the Brotherhood has denied the claims. It remains unclear until now who is responsible for the ambush; no concrete evidence of Hassm responsibility has been provided - even though a fabricated claim has been circulating and more recently a new group...

Egypts faltering counter-insurgency strategy openDemocracy

There is a lack of preparedness in countering the insurgency and the wave of repression has not lead to an improved security situation, on the contrary, Cairo has now become more of a target.

Ahmed Gomaa/Xinhua News Agency/Press Association Images. All rights reserved. Egyptian security forces block the road at the site about 35 km away from where policemen were killed in a shootout in Giza, Egypt, Oct. 21, 2017. Ahmed Gomaa/Xinhua News Agency/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.In a devastating blow to Egypts counter insurgency efforts, 54 members of the security forces were reported killed during a security operation in the Farafra Oasis on 21 October. This oasis located a mere 135 km south-west of Cairo.

The exact number of those killed remains unknown. The interior ministry issued an official statement claiming that only 16 police offers had been killed, whereas security officials initially stated that 59 had been killed. The Egyptian government criticized international media for inflating the number of causalities.

At first the government held the Hassm group responsible; a group it claims is the armed wing of the Muslim Brotherhood - even though the Brotherhood has denied the claims. It remains unclear until now who is responsible for the ambush; no concrete evidence of Hassm responsibility has been provided - even though a fabricated claim has been circulating and more recently a new group...

04:33

Paradises of the earth, Part 2: Redeyef [video] openDemocracy

The second episode of the ground-breaking web documentary series Paradises of the Earth follows an international solidarity caravan to the second stop of the trip:  Redeyef, a marginalised and polluted town in Tunisias phosphate mining.

Picture by Nadir Bouhmouch. Some rights reserved.In 2008, local residents in Redeyef protested over corrupt hiring practices at the mines. Police blockaded the protesting communities in a sort of siege for six months. With violent repression used by Ben Alis regime, the events are the longest popular uprising in Tunisias modern history and are considered to be the first spark that ignited the 2011 revolution.

The communities in this region still suffer from the extractivist model of development that only regenerates itself through resource pillaging, marginalisation and further environmental degradation.  In the past few years, several factories in the area have been occupied by unemployed youth, halting production, and several protests took place to denounce water shortages caused by the phosphate company's excessive use.

In fact, water is frequently cut from this area, sometimes for more than two weeks at a time and particularly in the summer, forcing inhabitants to buy cisterns to collect rainwater. The company drains more than three quarters of the exploited capacity (565 litres per second) of the Oum Laarayes-Redeyef groundwater table to proceed with the grinding, washing and processing of the raw resource with chemical components to enhance its quality and upgrade its competitiveness when sold on the international markets. Later, the used - yet untreated - water is directly discharged on the agricultural land, causing pollution, contamination of water reservoirs and damage to the soils fertility.

To learn more about "Paradises of the Earth", visit the website now: http://www.paradisesoftheearth.com/

Watch Part 2: 'Redeyef'

 ...

Paradises of the earth, Part 2: Redeyef [video] openDemocracy

The second episode of the ground-breaking web documentary series Paradises of the Earth follows an international solidarity caravan to the second stop of the trip:  Redeyef, a marginalised and polluted town in Tunisias phosphate mining.

Picture by Nadir Bouhmouch. Some rights reserved.In 2008, local residents in Redeyef protested over corrupt hiring practices at the mines. Police blockaded the protesting communities in a sort of siege for six months. With violent repression used by Ben Alis regime, the events are the longest popular uprising in Tunisias modern history and are considered to be the first spark that ignited the 2011 revolution.

The communities in this region still suffer from the extractivist model of development that only regenerates itself through resource pillaging, marginalisation and further environmental degradation.  In the past few years, several factories in the area have been occupied by unemployed youth, halting production, and several protests took place to denounce water shortages caused by the phosphate company's excessive use.

In fact, water is frequently cut from this area, sometimes for more than two weeks at a time and particularly in the summer, forcing inhabitants to buy cisterns to collect rainwater. The company drains more than three quarters of the exploited capacity (565 litres per second) of the Oum Laarayes-Redeyef groundwater table to proceed with the grinding, washing and processing of the raw resource with chemical components to enhance its quality and upgrade its competitiveness when sold on the international markets. Later, the used - yet untreated - water is directly discharged on the agricultural land, causing pollution, contamination of water reservoirs and damage to the soils fertility.

To learn more about "Paradises of the Earth", visit the website now: http://www.paradisesoftheearth.com/

Watch Part 2: 'Redeyef'

 ...

02:37

When faith fills ballot boxes openDemocracy

Ironically, the message of scientific temper, modernity, secularism resonated more when the rate of literacy was low. Distinctions between science and mythology and mythology and history keep eroding.

lead Kedarnath shrine. Youtube.Democracy and religiosity are no longer strange bedfellows in the secular India. The display of religiosity spikes during election time. The contestants either seek the Divine blessing or show that they are not atheists. Poll campaigns require a heavy dose of piety apart from large sums of money. Faith moves the voters to the polling booths. The electoral battle at times is won by polarising the Hindu voters. Leading a campaign to build a Hindu temple can make a party leader from zero to hero. The voters overlook the fact that India is not short of temples but short of schools and hospitals. The voters overlook the fact that India is not short of temples but short of schools and hospitals.

The Opposition Congress leader Rahul Gandhi finds it necessary not to let the temple visits remain the unique selling point of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. So he goes visiting temples in the poll-bound state of Gujarat, Modis home state. Gandhis temple visits naturally upset the BJP leaders who issue hostile statements. Is visiting a temple still the privilege of the chosen few? Did Rahul Gandhi commit a sin by visiting temples in Gujarat? The BJP leaders who trolled him for doing so seemed to believe so. But in this pre-election season more BJP leaders have visited more Hindu temples.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi frequently visits temples in the glare of TV cameras. He even talks about his getting a Divine Call. This time he greeted the people of Gujarat from a temple in the Himalayas that ranks high in the hierarchy of shrines. Setting aside the secular principles to which India is committed, the Prime Minister promised to reconstruct the Kedarnath shrine with the taxpayers money! He went to the extent of revealing that Baba (Lord Shiva) had decided that the responsibility of doing the reconstruction work at Kedarnath Temple should be assigned to no one else but to Babas son (Read Modi)!

One of the builder...

When faith fills ballot boxes openDemocracy

Ironically, the message of scientific temper, modernity, secularism resonated more when the rate of literacy was low. Distinctions between science and mythology and mythology and history keep eroding.

lead Kedarnath shrine. Youtube.Democracy and religiosity are no longer strange bedfellows in the secular India. The display of religiosity spikes during election time. The contestants either seek the Divine blessing or show that they are not atheists. Poll campaigns require a heavy dose of piety apart from large sums of money. Faith moves the voters to the polling booths. The electoral battle at times is won by polarising the Hindu voters. Leading a campaign to build a Hindu temple can make a party leader from zero to hero. The voters overlook the fact that India is not short of temples but short of schools and hospitals. The voters overlook the fact that India is not short of temples but short of schools and hospitals.

The Opposition Congress leader Rahul Gandhi finds it necessary not to let the temple visits remain the unique selling point of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. So he goes visiting temples in the poll-bound state of Gujarat, Modis home state. Gandhis temple visits naturally upset the BJP leaders who issue hostile statements. Is visiting a temple still the privilege of the chosen few? Did Rahul Gandhi commit a sin by visiting temples in Gujarat? The BJP leaders who trolled him for doing so seemed to believe so. But in this pre-election season more BJP leaders have visited more Hindu temples.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi frequently visits temples in the glare of TV cameras. He even talks about his getting a Divine Call. This time he greeted the people of Gujarat from a temple in the Himalayas that ranks high in the hierarchy of shrines. Setting aside the secular principles to which India is committed, the Prime Minister promised to reconstruct the Kedarnath shrine with the taxpayers money! He went to the extent of revealing that Baba (Lord Shiva) had decided that the responsibility of doing the reconstruction work at Kedarnath Temple should be assigned to no one else but to Babas son (Read Modi)!

One of the builder...

Sunday, 12 November

23:41

Frontpage 12th November openDemocracy

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Otto Dix, Assault Troops Advance under Gas (Sturmtruppe geht unter Gas vor). 1924. Tate Liverpool.

22:48

Jobs, jobs, jobs how to divert away from the industrial military complex in the UK openDemocracy

There is talk of ghost towns if UK defence jobs are threatened, but are these the only ghost towns that should concern us?

Otto Dix, The trenches near Rheims II, 1916. Estate of Otto Dix, private collection.President Eisenhower famously used his farewell address to warn future US governments to guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex.

What he foresaw was a potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power through the development of the arms industry and its dependency on arms sales abroad to sustain itself. The UKs Department for International Trade, proudly announces on its website, that on a rolling 10 year basis, the UK remains the worlds second largest exporter of arms, with a 9% share of the global defence export market in 2016.  Government pride is based upon jobs, balance of payments, and maintaining an independent defence-manufacturing base. The defence sector makes up 10% of the British manufacturing base and those defence exports sustain 55,000 jobs.

Liam Fox, the UKs Secretary of State for International Trade, mounted an unashamed defence of Britains arms sales at the opening of the worlds biggest weapons trade exhibition in London this autumn. Fox said, Britain is a global leader in defence and that should be celebrated, .we must work to defend and promote the established defence industry. These words reflect little thought as to the use of these weapons and their consequences. Military equipment worth at least 3.6 billion has been agreed for sale by the UK to Saudi Arabia since the devastating conflict in Yemen began in 2015. This has included Typhoon fighter jets, and precision-guided bombs. Claims have been made that UK-made arms are being used in indiscriminate bombing raids on civilian targets by the Saudi-led coalition fighting Shia rebels in neighbouring Yemen. These sales contribute to thousands of engineering jobs in the UK, and have provided billions of pounds of revenue for the British arms trade.

Economics and job security trumps political morality. When it was announced re...

21:12

Democracy is dead: long live democracy! openDemocracy

Any successful attempt to prevent the real social media pathologies such as extremist, abusive and hateful behavior online  must be multi-faceted, thoughtful, collaborative and evidence based.

Screenshot from Medium website: About Medium, where words matter.In the course of the World Forum for Democracy 2017, and in political commentary more generally, social media are blamed for almost everything that is wrong with democracy. They are held responsible for pollution of the democratic environment through fake news, junk science, computational propaganda and aggressive micro-targeting. In turn, these phenomena have been blamed for the rise of populism, political polarization, far-right extremism and radicalisation, waves of hate against women and minorities, post-truth, the end of representative democracy, fake democracy and ultimately, the death of democracy. It feels like the tirade of relatives of the deceased at the trial of the murderer. It is extraordinary how much of this litany is taken almost as given, the most gloomy prognoses as certain visions of the future.

Yet actually we know rather little about the relationship between social media and democracy. Because ten years of the internet and social media have challenged everything we thought we knew.  They have injected volatility and instability into political systems, bringing a continual cast of unpredictable events. They bring into question normative models of democracy by which we might understand the macro-level shifts at work  seeming to make possible the highest hopes and worst fears of republicanism and pluralism.

They have transformed the ecology of interest groups and mobilizations. They have challenged lites and ruling institutions, bringing regulatory decay and policy sclerosis. They create undercurrents of political life that burst to the surface in seemingly random ways, making fools of opinion polls and pollsters. And although the platforms themselves generate new sources of real-time transactional data that might be used to understand and shape this changed environment, most of this data...

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