Friday, 29 January 2016

U.S.A.: Presidential Campaign Finance-System

The sky's the limit when it comes to the United States' campaign finance system. Increasingly, the country's richest sector is gaining influence and control over America's political. The development threatens the country's once proud democracy.

The two candidates currently attracting the most attention in the American presidential primaries seem to be polar opposites. First, there's self-declared socialist Bernie Sanders, who can pack entire arenas with as many as 20,000 supporters. And then there's a man who claims to possess $10 billion, Donald Trump, who is leading in the broad field of Republicans. The two do, however, have one thing in common: They reject the US campaign finance system. One out of conviction; the other because he has the resources to finance his own campaign.

One, Bernie Sanders, takes pride in stating that he doesn't want rich people's money. Some 400,000 largely middle class Americans have contributed to his campaign so far, donating $31.20 on average. The other, Donald Trump, proudly announced recently that he had rejected a $5 million donation from a hedge fund manager. And that he is prepared to pump $1 billion of his own wealth into the campaign. One of Trump's most popular arguments so far is that his rival Jeb Bush has managed to raise over $150 million. "Jeb Bush is a puppet to his donors," Trump says disparagingly. Sooner or later, he argues, they will call in their favors. "I don't owe anyone any favors." It's a message that is proving popular with potential voters. But is it really any more democratic that a billionaire can buy his own election instead of allowing himself to be bought by others?

Two fatal developments are converging during this election in the United States. The decoupling of the super-rich from the rest of society is an accelerating trend in recent years. And also the consequences of a series of rulings by the Supreme Court in 2010 that enable politicians and support groups to accept unlimited donations. This confluence of events is undermining the development of the world's proudest democracy.

The distribution of wealth in the United States is getting absurd, with the popular image of a widening gap between the rich and the poor already outmoded. The emerging chasm is so enormous it can be described as being no less than a gulf.

The idea that free markets will ultimately create the best possible living conditions is, of course, a wonderful one. But the reality in American looks like this: The yearly income of a typical middle-class family has fallen by almost $5,000 since 1999. If you factor in inflation, male workers last year earned on average $783 less than they did 42 years ago. For the country's richest, on the other hand, things are going swimmingly. The highest 0.1 percent possesses almost as much wealth as the lowest 90 percent taken together. The family of Sam Walton, founder of supermarket chain Walmart, has amassed over $149 billion in wealth. The family possesses as much as all of the lowest 42 percent of the country combined.

Indeed, the super-rich are the only people who have profited from the considerable economic growth in the US in recent decades. Since the last Wall Street collapse in 2008, 58 percent of the income gains have been in the top one percent of earners in the US. In 2013, the top 25 hedge fund managers in the country enjoyed more than $24 billion in earnings -- the total amount earned by 533,000 teachers at public schools.

Of course, acceptance of differences is part of this country's collective mentality. And Americans are much more willing to admire the success of their neighbors than their counterparts in Europe might be. But even by American standards, the shifts that have taken place in recent years are grotesque. They are destroying the moral fabric of society. The old chestnut that anyone can make it to the top, once known as the "American Dream," rings hollow today. Socialist Sanders and billionaire Trump both say the American Dream is broken.

With the exception of Sanders, however, not a single one of the current candidates for president is willing to call for an increase in taxes -- not even for the top 0.1 percent. In fact, most are promising tax breaks -- and this, despite the fact that many companies don't even pay taxes, because they conceal their earnings. Billionaire Warren Buffet admitted not too long ago that he is subject to a lower tax rate than his own secretary.

The fact that few politicians seek to change the situation has much to do with America's second major problem. The super-rich are donating more than ever before to individual campaigns. It's a calculated move and not out of any kind of love for democracy. The fact that there are now few limits and no caps on the amount of money they can give to the "Super PACs," as the "political action committees" supporting the candidates are called, is a result of the 2010 ruling in the Citizens United v. the Federal Elections Commission case in the Supreme Court. The high court ruled that political donations to be a form of freedom of expression. The five members of the court appointed by Republican presidents ruled that donations cannot be capped. The four justices appointed by Democratic presidents dissented. The ruling is the most devastating in recent US history and also threatens its democracy.

The effects of this ruling are now becoming visible for the first time, with donations from the super-rich increasing radically. Last year alone, the candidates and their Super PACs received close to $400 million -- far more than in the entire previous campaign. The most conspicuous aspect, though, is that around half this money originates from a small group of massively wealthy families and the companies they own.

Republican Ted Cruz, for example, received $10 million from an oil billionaire and $11 million from a hedge fund manager. Of the $16 million in total donations that have flowed into Marco Rubio's Super PAC, $12.5 million has come from four individual donors. These millions are the ones that can determine the outcome of elections. The money enables candidates to afford armies of paid campaign staffers and thousands of TV ads.

Candidates seeking to rely on small donations stand little chance in this cutthroat new environment. Ironically, supporters of the new rules are fond of pointing to Barack Obama's successful 2008 campaign. They argue the campaign showed that small donations can indeed make a candidate competitive and that it can work. But that was prior to the Citizens United ruling. In the end, Obama was also the beneficiary of the largesse of Wall Street's super-rich, and their calculating donations to the Democrats. In the wake of the banking crisis, Obama refused to subject Wall Street to tighter long-term regulations and also made key appointments in his administration to representatives of Goldman Sachs or Citigroup, the main culprits in the crisis.

The arch-conservative Koch Brothers alone, whose estimated assets of $120 billion make them America's second-richest family, want to invest $889 million in the current election campaign. That's more money than the Democratic and Republican parties can raise together. The Kochs are investing in a targeted manner in individual candidates rather than parties. That makes their influence even more binding because it creates concrete dependent relations. They have also built a database that creates precise profiles of some 250 million Americans. They even have their own polling unit, telephone campaigns and marketing units for testing political messages. With this sheer power, it wouldn't be off the mark to describe the Kochs as America's most powerful political party.
The brothers also hold a convention every six months in which they ask the Republican candidates to "audition."

The ability to exercise political influence rises in proportion to wealth, which in turn further cements America's economic divide. By their very nature, most of the super-rich in the US oppose increasing taxes for the super-wealthy. They also reject a dignified minimum wage, a statutory healthcare system and public universities. They are against just about anything that might help the bottom 90 percent to rise.

Given that the economic and political direction of the country is being steered today by a small number of billionaires, the United States has taken on many of the characteristics normally associated with oligarchies. "We've seen a complete subversion of our political system," former President Jimmy Carter recently said, diagnosing the ailment. He said that unlimited money in politics "violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it's just an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president."

The race suits worn by Formula One drivers are littered with patches with the names and logos of sponsors covering the chest and arms as well as the helmet. If Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton or Ted Cruz were to wear something similar in the future, at least there would be some transparency.  But it's highly unlikely they will do anything of the sort, because precious few in the United States are rebelling against the billionaires' power.

A popular revolt against the power of the happy few -- and remember, "revolution" is a bad word in the US -- is nowhere in sight. Not even Donald Trump could be counted on to lead a movement like that. He's simply too rich. So it's not without irony that this über-oligarch himself, a man who spent decades trying to buy favors from politicians, is now presenting himself as being above the swampland of campaign finance. "Nobody knows the system better than me. I was the system," he has said. As an entrepreneur, Trump says he gave money to most politicians. Two or three years later, he says, when he had an issue of concern, they would pay back their debt by returning a favor.

It's seldom that politicians get off as easily as Hillary Clinton did. During the first Republican televised debate, Trump revealed he had contributed to Clinton. "With Hillary Clinton, I said, 'Be at my wedding,' and she came to my wedding. You know why? She had no choice! Because I gave," Trump said.

It may turn out that Trump is doing his country a major service with his candidacy because he is demonstrating very vividly what is rotten about this system. With all due respect, he's a useful idiot.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
Political Analyst/Writer
World Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: CNN-Photo of: GOP-Presidential Candidates Debate in Las-Vegas

EUROPE: Understanding the ''refugee-crisis''

The refugee crisis has exposed cracks in the European political foundations. Failure to agree over how to implement quotas and inability to coordinate humanitarian actions. It has allowed Eurosceptics to vaunt their populist talents. Information chaos has wreaked havoc in Europe, radicalising public opinion. It becomes difficult to achieve objectivity in a crisis as complex as this one.

In fact, the crisis has divided Europe in three groups: The first group does not shy away from uncertainty and welcomes change with expectant anticipation.The third group hates what is happening out fear of the new, the ''unknown'', and the second group is sitting between the first and the third, waiting to see how things will develop. 

We live in a new period of mass migration. We have yet to realize and recognize it. However, the situation is not very different than in the fourth century A.D. People move from their old environment to a new one. Economic and political factors account for much of this phenomenon. 

European societies have debated for years how much immigration is acceptable, the type of immigrants and the culture they come from. This is an attempt to bring structure in a process, which, considered closely, does not allow for any structure. The interests of those who want to emigrate correspond with those of the people living in the countries to which they want to immigrate. An agreement between the old and incoming inhabitants is the foundation for the peaceful management of new mass migration. The new immigration law should be perceived as nothing other than this.

Today's refugee crisis also recalls the period immediately after World War II. There were more than 40 million refugees in Europe alone. These displaced persons, as they were called at the time, were forced to flee their homes because of violence, forced relocation, persecution, and destruction of property and infrastructure. 

The dire postwar situation led to the creation in 1950 of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which was expected to serve only a temporary mandate, protecting displaced people for three years. But the problem never went away. On the contrary, the UNHCR is not only still with us: it is sounding an alarm. In its 2015 mid-year report, the agency put the number of ''forcibly displaced'' people worldwide at 59.5 million at the end of 2014, including 19.5 million internationally displaced., which they define as true refugees. Unfortunately, the report underscores the incompleteness of our understanding of the refugee problem. 

In fact, throughout history, the fate of refugees seeking asylum in another land has largely been unstudied. Historians record wars, and they mention diasporas, but they rarely show much interest in how refugees crisis arose or were resolved. To the extent that history is written by the victors, that is not surprising. The knowledge that one's country terrorized a minority to the point that its members had to flee, or that a substantial share of one's forebears arrived in defeat and panic, is not exactly an inspiring source of national identity. So the stories, unheard and untold, are lost.That is why we need more research on what can and should be done for refugees in the long term.

The third group on this ''refugee debate'' argues that that asylum-seekers are not really desperate, but just using a crisis as pretext for admission to richer country. Refugees flows are driven largely by political terror and human rights abuses. People in fear for their lives run to the nearest safe place, not the richest, there is no escape from the moral imperative to help them.
The arbitrariness of our current refugee procedures, calling for ''legal frameworks based on on the need for protection, rather than triggering causes of the migration. But formulating such rules requires some careful economic thought. The framers of a refugee system need to consider the rules' incentive effects on the migrants themselves and on the governments of their countries of origin.

Under today's haphazard and archaic asylum rules, refugees must take enormous risks to reach safety, and the costs and benefits of helping them are distributed capriciously. It does not have to be this way. Economists can help by testing which international rules and institutions are needed to reform an inefficient and often inhumane system.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
Political Analyst/Writer
World Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: Le Monde--Refugees crossing-

Thursday, 28 January 2016

WORLD: The Future of University: Universalim

University has not always been the unwieldy bureaucratic machine that it is now. From the end of the eighteenth century onwards, European gymnasiums and universities were supposed to establish norms of social behavior, instill in students ethical concepts, as well as sound judgments of taste, and develop codes of honor for practicing one’s trade. 

On the one hand, they offered education in the art of living; in Berlin, the closing words Hegel uttered to his students in their last class on the history of philosophy were “I wish you to live a good life”. On the other hand, they became essential for the creation of a bourgeois and national identity, allied to good scientific training in the then developing nation states.

The task of the university was to form a new bourgeois elite that served simultaneously as a cultural elite. Ranks inherited at birth were replaced by social classes, and wealthy parents, even if uneducated, wanted their sons (and, later, daughters) to receive a good education. Whereas in the United States intellectuals did not enjoy great prestige, they did in Europe. Not all diplomas had the same worth, but political leadership required one, preferably issued by a respected faculty, such as Law.
As class societies were slowly transformed into mass societies, the old bourgeois forms of life crumbled, and the so-called civilizing process stopped or was even reversed. The task of universities in mass societies was no longer to prepare students for living a decent, good life.
Because of this social transformation, the mission of universities assumed a paradoxical form. The modern society is a functional society, which means that the kind of education appropriate to it is one that allows students to establish their places in the social hierarchy by performing a function. Thus, in our mass societies, institutions of higher education, especially elite universities, teach the performance of the better-paid functions.
Three tendencies characterize modern education, especially at the university level: first, the loss of academic authority; second, a special school certificate as the entry ticket of most positions; and, third, bureaucratization.
First, liberalization. As a result of the 1968 student-movement, students acquired the ability to participate in the life of their school. They can choose among schoolbooks, among subject matters; at universities, they can also choose their classes and their professors. The power of a professor depends more on his or her personal authority than before, and that authority depends on the professors’ teaching style and their ability to establish human relations with students.
This development, namely, the liberalization of universities and the greater power of students, which is desirable in and of itself, went together with some, in my mind, less desirable outcomes. Several new subject matters without significant academic worth were included in the curriculum, partly due to political correctness, partly due to the students’ wish to get a grade without mental effort, and finally due to the goal of some teachers to get an academic position at all.
The second tendency that gained momentum was to tie many occupations and positions to a certificate from universities or, at least, to a high school certificate. Several occupations that were well practiced without degrees or certificates, cannot be practiced without them now, even if those certificates do not prove that their holders are more able to perform the task in question. Many young men and women, who do not need a diploma or certificate at all, must spend many years in schools, where they study something they could learn just by practicing the skill, or learn something they cannot use at all. They just need a piece of paper as a condition to be employed.
Finally, the last thirty or forty years witnessed an unprecedented growth of bureaucracy in the university system and in many institutions of research. Statistics showed that, whereas in the 1980s universities all around the globe spent 40 percent of their funds on bureaucracy, by now they spend 60 percent of all their funds on it. Thus, less than half of the funding remains for everything else, student stipends and professor salaries included. 

From this, it follows that growing tuition fees are not spent on education, but on the upkeep of administration. The main task of professors is no longer to teach but to fill out hundreds of papers, to document all their actions and the actions of their students. I presume that in all universities at least ten, if not more, people are hired to create useless questionnaires, to collect answers from professors, to group them, and to give a report on them. Why? For no other reason than to keep bureaucracy growing and swallowing up all the rest.
What can be the reason behind this unreason? The total loss of trust in personal honesty. Everyone needs to be controlled many times over. At a mass university there are so many students that one cannot know them, nor talk to them. One can only “process” or register them. Moreover, it is presumed that students do not enroll in order to learn something, to hear something that interests them, but for the sole reason of getting a good job in order to earn considerable amounts of money. Since motivations cannot be controlled and tested except through a mind-reading machine, administration controls what can be controlled, namely the data. As if the data could tell anything about motives!
All this is not meant as an indictment against mass universities, much less as a defense of traditional universities. But what I strongly suggest, by way of reforming institutions of higher learning, is to get rid of half of the bureaucracy and to vest more trust into individuals. From the money at the university’s disposal much more should be spent on student grants and stipends. I suggest more freedom for students and young faculty to develop their best abilities, to pursue their potentials and talents. I would also suggest more concern for general culture, or for what can be termed “universalism”.
Surely, at a music school, a violin student must concentrate on learning how to play well; at a science faculty, a chemistry student must learn the principles of scientific inquiry, and so on and so forth. But the old recipe for higher education needs to accompany these projects. To understand history, to get a view on the state of the world in general, to become interested in fine arts… All those contribute to the students’ ability, to their readiness to play an active part as well-informed citizens and to participate in society as concerned and thinking individuals, not just as members of one or another pressure group.
I do not know whether the tendency toward the bureaucratic rule of universities and of many research institutes can be reversed. I only recommend that it should be reversed. For, if it is not, the creativity of our cultures will get entirely lost, and so will upward mobility. Political activity will be limited to professional politicians. A new iron age will set in.

By Guylain Gustave Moke

(This is a part of my lecture at the Leicester University-, at the ''De MontFort Hall'', on December, 06 2015.)

Photo-Credit: Leicester University-photo of the ''Seminar'' on the ''The future of University'', at the ''De MontFort Hall'', December 06 2015

U.S.A: The Political Power-: ''Market'' & ''Inequality''

You often hear inequality has widened because globalization and technological change have made most people less competitive, while making the best educated more competitive. There's some truth to this. The tasks most people used to do can now be done more cheaply by lower-paid workers abroad or by computer-driven machines. 

But this common explanation overlooks a critically important phenomenon: the increasing concentration of political power in a corporate and financial elite that has been able to influence the rules by which the economy runs. This transformation has announced to a pre-distribution upward. 
Intellectual property rights--patents, trademarks, and copyrights--have been enlarged and extended, for example, creating windfalls for pharmaceutical companies. 

Americans now pay the highest pharmaceutical costs of any advanced nation. At the same time, antitrust laws have been relaxed for corporations with significant market power, such as big food companies, cable companies facing little or no broadband competition, big airlines and the largest Wall Street banks. As a result, Americans par more for broadband Internet, food, airline ticket, and banking services than the citizens of any advanced nation. 

Bankruptcy laws have been loosened for large corporations--airline, auto manufacturers, even casino magnates like Donald Trump--allowing then to leave workers and communities stranded. But bankruptcy has not been extended to homeowners burdened by mortgage debt or to graduates laden with student debt. Their debts won't be forgiven. The largest banks and auto manufacturers were bailed out in 2008, shifting the risks of economic failure into the backs of average working people and taxpayers. 

Contract laws have been altered to require mandatory arbitration before private judges selected by big corporations, Securities laws have been relaxed to allow insider trading of confidential information. CEOs now use stock buybacks to boost share prices when they cash in their own stock options. Tax laws have special loopholes for the partners of hedge funds and private-equity funds, special favors for the oil and gas industry, lower marginal income-tax rates on the highest incomes, and reduced estate taxes on great wealth. Meanwhile, so-called ''free trade'' agreements, such as the Trans Pacific Partnership, give stronger protection to intellectual property and financial assets but less protection to the labor of average working Americans.

Today, nearly one out every three working Americans is in part-time job. Many are consultants, freelancers, and independent contractors. two thirds are living pay check-to pay check. And employment benefits have shriveled. The portion of workers with any pension connected to their job has fallen from just over half in 1979 to under 33 percent today. Labor unions have been eviscerated. 

Fifty years ago, when General Motors was the largest employer in America, the typical GM worker, backed by a strong union, earned $35 an hour in today's dollars. Now America's largest employer is Walmart, and the typical entry-level Walmart worker, without union, earns about $9 an hour.  More states have adopted so called ''right-to-work''laws, designated to bust unions. The National Labor Relations Board, understaffed and overburdened, has barely enforced collective bargaining. 

All of these changes have resulted in higher corporate profits returns for shareholders, and higher par for top corporate executives and Wall Street bankers--and lower pay and higher prices for most other Americans. They amount to a giant ''pre-distribution'' upward to the rich. But we are not aware of them because they are hidden inside the market. 

The underlying problem, then, is not just globalization and technological changes that have made most Americans workers less competitive. Nor is it that they lack enough education to be sufficiently productive. the more basic problem is that market itself has become tilted ever more in the direction of moneyed interests that have exerted disproportionate influence over it, while average workers have steadily lost bargaining power--both economic and political--to receive as large as portion of the economy's gains as they commanded in the first three decades after World War II.

Reversing the scourge of widening inequality requires the upward pre-distribution within the rules of the market, and giving average people the bargaining power they need to get a larger share of the gains from growth.The answer to this problem is not found in economics. It is found in politics. 

Ultimately, the trend toward widening inequality in America, as elsewhere, can be reversed only if the vast majority join together to demand fundamental change. The most important political competition over the next decades will not be between the right and left or between Republicans and Democrats. It will be between a majority of Americans who have been losing ground, and an economic elite that refused to recognize or respond to its distress.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
Political Analyst/Writer
World Affairs Expert
Lecturer

Photo-Credit: Chart of US income distribution 1774, 1860 and 2010- Yale University.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

WORLD: Faux Democracy

Authoritarian regimes create a facade of democracy to maintain a veneer of legitimacy. By constructing fake political parties and phony social movements, as well as pseudo news media and GONGOs (government-operated nongovernmental organizations), autocrats simulate democratic institutions to prevent authentic democracy from ever taking root.

Authoritarian Regimes ''Faux Democracy'' practices

Over time, these regimes have taken their imitation to a new level. With the principal goal of keeping their grip on power, modern authoritarians have built a sophisticated alternate universe of institutions: faux news outlets with state-of-the-art production values, professional-looking think tanks that churn out ideas just as their democratic counterparts do and even pretend election monitors that ape the activities of authentic monitors.

This modernized mimicry is a feature of the recent authoritarian resurgence that has created complex obstacles for democrats in autocratic settings around the globe. Not content to remain at home, however, repressive regimes have projected imitation initiatives into other countries, as well as regional and supranational rules-based organizations.

Authoritarian-backed GONGOs, for instance, routinely insinuate themselves into the proceedings of the U.N. Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review and the Human Dimension Implementation Meetings of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Chinese government-aligned “nongovernmental” organizations take part in U.N. meetings to push the line of Chinese authorities.

In October 2013, several Chinese GONGOs descended on Geneva to slavishly tout China’s achievements in the sphere of civil society as the Human Rights Council reviewed China’s rights record. In fact, China has one of the world’s most repressive environments for independent civil society. At last year’s Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, Kremlin-backed GONGOs stayed true to form and sought to muddy the waters about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Cuban and Venezuelan governments brought GONGOs to the recent Summit of the Americas in Panama with the aim of presenting regime-backed groups as their authentic civil society.

In a similarly malevolent spirit, regimes have created fake groups that applaud fraudulent elections with the aim of clouding the assessments done by established monitoring organizations. These so-called zombie monitors have proliferated widely. Two authoritarian-led initiatives, the Commonwealth of the Independent States Election Monitoring Organization and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, have sent so-called monitors to recent polls across Eurasia.

The repressive government in Azerbaijan brought zombie monitors from abroad to sanctify a patently manipulated presidential election in October 2013. A similar spectacle occurred in Crimea for a managed referendum that was held in March 2014 after Russia’s “little green men” invaded the peninsula. Even China, a country itself without real elections, has sent observers to recent elections in Burma and Zimbabwe.

The ideas and messages of faux NGOs and election monitors are widely disseminated through authoritarian-backed media, propelling their alternate reality abroad. The best-known enterprise of this sort is Russia’s RT (formerly Russia Today). During last year’s referendum in Crimea, a hodgepodge of radical political figures, uncredentialed for authentic election monitoring, appeared on Russian government media outlets to present findings that went lock step with those of the Kremlin. In this brave new world, faux monitors speaking about a fake referendum are broadcast to the world from a simulated news outlet.

Not long ago, many observers were dismissive of RT’s influence. Today, however, thoughtful analysts are not as cavalier. While it is admittedly difficult to offer a precise metric of influence, RT and other Russian government media have become intertwined with the world of normal news, especially online. Key narratives pushed by such Russian media are picked up and propagated by Western news outlets. Popular aggregators of information on Russia, such as Johnson’s Russia List, seamlessly include RT and other Kremlin-backed media alongside sources such as the Associated Press and the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. Slick Web sites with phony, misleading news reports appear increasingly in the new democracies of Central Europe to offer a Kremlin spin on events. As China, Iran and other ambitious, undemocratic regimes scale up their global media activities, the challenge of distinguishing between authentic and phony information will become only more complicated.

Why are the authoritarians going global with their simulation of democracy?
First, in today’s helter-skelter, fragmented world of media, these regimes appreciate that it is much easier to cloud the understanding of important issues. Masters of deception at home, they are investing heavily abroad and exploiting the opportunities offered by the new media environment to sow confusion and distrust.

More ominously, they seek to undermine democracy and human rights institutions from within. As the authoritarian alternate universe crashes into the democratic space, the imitation affects the real thing. At the Cold War’s end, this unpleasant reality did not factor into assumptions about how the world would operate. Democracies must rethink these assumptions quickly, however, if the post-Cold War order is to be salvaged.

Democratic States ''Faux Democracy practices

''Faux Democracy'' concept is also well played by the so called ''democratic states''. In this battle of heart and minds to win the popular support of its citizens, democratic states governments use corporate media and spin doctors. The West/American corporate media and governments spin doctors have done their utmost to propagate and sustain an image of West/America as guarantor of freedom, and in turn the majority of Europeans and Americans have embraced this comfortable, mythic view as their own.

Democratic states governments and corporate media have encouraged the masses to engage in faulty thinking, in an effort to gain public support for self serving agendas that typically cannot be justified rationally; the only way to get them through is by sophistical means.

It is important to note that the primary motivation of gigantic media conglomerates is amassing profit, not truth. As a general rule, only if truth pays will they report it. Likewise, a government seeking power and control over its citizens (which is all governments do to one extent or another) is likely to censor and whitewash the information it provides to its citizens, and even worse, to propagate disinformation, especially when the facts get in the way of implementing its own agenda.

So it would be naive to expect a government in ''democratic states'' that seeks power and control over its citizens not to use its influence over the corporate media in order to spread self-serving propaganda. In as much as the corporate media need democratic states government to maximize their bottom line--through tax breaks, military contracts, relaxed media ownership rules, access to its officials and spokespersons, as well as other incentives and kickbacks--governments in democratic states have incredible power and leverage over the corporate media. For example, the latter was the case in the lead-up to Iraq War when the George W Bush's administration attempted to make the facts fit the policy, in order to justify the war.

Democracy depends on an informed populace. Regrettably, the practice of ''Faux Democracy'' has made the people victims of the politico-corporate establishment in democratic states. And the people allow themselves to be duped and manipulated.

As W. K. Clifford remarked in his famous essay of 1877: ''The Ethics of Belief: ''it is wrong in all cases to believe on insufficient evidence; and where its presumption to doubt and to investigate, there is worse than presumption to believe. In fact, Clifford maintained that each and every one of us (and not just politicians, lawyers, religious leaders, journalists, and others who bears a fiduciary relationship to us) has a duty to question, think before we commit them to belief. '' it is not the leader of men, statesmen, philosopher, or poet that owes the bounden duty to mankind'' states Clifford. ''No simplicity of mind, no obscurity of station, can escape the universal duty of questioning all that we believe''.

However, this assumes that the people able, in the first place, to distinguish fact from fiction, and sufficient evidence from pseudo evidence. they must have a sense of what constitutes rational criteria for belief before they can even begin to determine if they have a good reason to commit something to belief. But this is possible only if they are privy to the sophistical mechanisms that democratic states governments, through politico-corporate media establishment, use to manipulate and garner their support.

For example, the Downing Street memos document that, prior to the invasion of Iraq did not truly believe that Saddam Hussein posed a serious threat to national security. Nevertheless, the Bush's administration sought public support for invading Iraq and rightly believed that, the people were feeling insecure enough after the September 11, 2001, to support the invasion if they were told it was necessary to prevent another terror attack. So the Bush's administration used their vulnerability to manipulate their support. Unfortunately, the people based their commitment to Bush's war on faulty thinking. This same destructive pattern has repeated itself ad nauseam.

A single article cannot cover all the rational thought processes that can help to promote true democracy and protect ourselves against '' Faux Democracy'' practices. Nevertheless, there are six steps that are crucial to thinking for ourselves in order to defend the true democratic values against ''Faux Democracy'' tactics (human gullibility and unreasoning): 1. Ask for explanations, 2. Look for consistency, 3. Question the status quo, 4. Believe only credible authorities, 5. Watch out for fear mongering and demagoguery, 6. Beware of media supported stereotypes. Taken together, these instructions provide a useful heuristic for determining whether you are justified in accepting any politico-corporate claims.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
Writer/Researcher
Political Analyst
World Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: Nexus Edition photo of: Guylain Gustave Moke

UNITED STATES: The Toolbox of racism Repressive

Institutionalized racism has been a major issue since the colonial era and the slave era. It remains a major phenomenon and continues to be reflected in socio-economic inequality and has taken more modern forms of expression, most prevalently symbolic racism. Institutionalized racism in Unites States occurs in employment, housing, education, lending and government.

Mass Incarceration

Let's take for example the U.S. incarceration population; Close to 70 percent of all people in U.S. incarceration, are people of color. As Adam Gopnik observed in The New Yorker, “there are more black men in the grip of the [U.S.] criminal-justice system—in prison, on probation, or on parole—than were in slavery” on the eve of the civil war.

Over the past three decades, the U.S. prison population has quadrupled. This is in large part a result of the “war on drugs.” Since the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 was passed, incarceration for nonviolent offenses dramatically increased—disproportionately impacting poor black people. Relegated to a second-class status by their experience with prison, an inordinate number of black men have once again become “disenfranchised,” losing the right to vote, to serve on juries, and to be free of legal discrimination in regards to employment, education, and access to public services.

This exponential increase in incarceration has accompanied the unprecedented rise in the detention of undocumented immigrants as well as the growth of the prison-industrial complex, demonstrating the salience of the political economy of incarceration.

These developments are rooted in the socio-economic changes of the post-industrial era and the retrenchment of social safety net programs that occurred in the United States from the 1980s forward, paralleled by the spread of the neoliberal economic paradigm to the Global South. Prisons were central to the government’s strategy of addressing the structural violence “produced by the deindustrialization, lack of jobs,” and “lack of education” that has characterized this era, impacting poor people of color in particular.

Although mass incarceration as a tool of oppression entails less blatant violence than past forms of racial control practiced in the United States, its impact has nevertheless been harmful and extensive. The institutionalized racism inherent in this system has led many independent thinkers to describe U.S. mass incarceration as the “new Jim Crow,” likening it to the “racial caste system” maintained through racist laws and violence after the formal abolition of slavery.

University of London professor Laleh Khalili agrees. In Time in the Shadows: Confinement in Counterinsurgencies, she examines continuities in carceral strategies from 19th-century colonial rule until today. Khalili shows that while the use of mass incarceration rather than brute force to control “problematic populations” may have developed as one of the “more humane,” “administrative and legal solutions” to social unrest, their aims have often been the same: “to oblige” an oppressed or “occupied people to admit defeat and recognize their own subjugation.”

War of Terror Pretext

With the “war on terror,” the practice of mass incarceration has expanded in use and impact, with a dramatic increase in the targeting of Muslim and Arab communities. An Associated Press report in 2011 found that in the United States alone, there had been 2,934 terrorism-related arrests and 2,568 convictions since 9/11—eight times the number of such arrests in the previous decade.

Activists have raised serious concerns regarding the “discriminatory investigations” and “questionable” prosecutorial tactics that have characterized many of these cases. These allegations were detailed in a report by Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute, which cited prosecutors’ use of “evidence obtained by coercion, classified evidence that cannot be fairly contested, and inflammatory evidence about terrorism in which defendants played no part” to convict suspects of terrorism.

Another unsavory feature of these cases has been “fabricated war crimes,” including “conspiracy” and “material support,” that have been widely used to convict people when in normal legal circumstances there would be no grounds for charge. Moreover, nearly three-quarters of convictions in the “war on terror” are “based on suspicion of the defendant’s perceived ideology and not on his/her criminal activity,” according to a report published by the Muslim civil rights group SALAAM and the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms.

Additionally, “war on terror” cases in the United States have reinforced the widespread use of plea-bargains against individuals from marginalized and oppressed communities, with over 90 percent of cases settled through pleas before going to court. According to SALAAM, “terror enhancement” effectively quadruples normal sentences, enabling prosecutors to “force defendants to accept plea-bargains as the only alternative to draconian prison terms.” Once in prison, these detainees and prisoners are subjected to “harsh and at times abusive conditions,” including “prolonged solitary confinement and severe restrictions.”

Perhaps the most notorious of the U.S. “war on terror” incarceration sites has been the extralegal regime at Guantanamo Bay, where a majority of the remaining 114 prisoners have been long cleared for release. Inmates in this island prison have been subjected to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment—including torture and long periods of solitary confinement—without the opportunity to see or challenge the alleged evidence that sent them there. Detainees who have launched hunger strikes in protest of their conditions have been force fed through tubes brutally shoved down their throats.

Added to that are the numerous “war on terror” extraterritorial and extralegal “black sites” that have been established across the world, as well as the harsh incarceration regimes found within U.S. borders, most notoriously the Communication Management Units (CMUs). Described as “little Gitmos” due to their similarities to Guantanamo Bay, these self-contained units within the federal prison system employ harsh segregation and control measures against largely Muslim detainees.

Such legal regimes, when coupled with broader targeted surveillance and policing, have an immediate and tangible impact on individuals, families, and already marginalized communities. They have also been “imperative,” as the sociologist Nisha Kapoor has argued, “for retaining racial hierarchies and facilitating racial interventions within the West itself.”

Rise of the National Security State

Now rounding out its 13th year, the U.S.-led “war on terror” has featured racist and repressive national security practices as well as extensive physical and structural violence both within the United States and abroad.

Through the power it exercises in international institutions like the United Nations, the United States has also sponsored the restructuring of “counter-terror” legal architecture in states across the globe. As the principal author of what Princeton University professor Kim Lane Scheppele has termed “global security law,” the U.S. government has contributed to the violence of both administrative control as well as harsh policing tactics employed by neoliberal and authoritarian states to manage populations and corral political dissent.

With the violent policing of American black communities traceable back to the “slave patrols” of the early 18th century, the origins of the U.S. national security state are particularly deep-rooted and brutal. Yet although the context is different, the United States’ history of settler-colonialism and techniques of racial and economic domination yield many similarities with Israel’s methods. Importantly, both states operate according to a “national security state” logic, in which  a host of violent as well as mundane administrative practices result in physical harm and limits to individual and group freedoms.

Linked to the notion of a “state of exception,” a context in which a state claims leeway to violate a host of legal and constitutional norms, the national security state requires a dehumanized “Other” to sustain its politics of fear. Those constructed as “Other” are deemed threatening not on the basis of their actions, but rather on the basis of their identity or perceived ideology. In other words, it is not what they do, but who they are (Blacks, Palestinians, Muslims, Arabs, Islamists, etc.) that matters in determining whether a criminal act has been committed. Inversing the logic of the law, the Other in a “state of exception” is guilty until proven innocent.

The national security state is characterized by a concentration of power in the hands of the executive, violations of due process and other constitutional guarantees, and liberal use of the state secrecy prerogative. It also entails increased restrictions on speech, association, and privacy; the targeting of whistleblowers, lawyers, and civil liberties advocates; the criminalization of entire communities; and an expanded role for the military and intelligence agencies in civil life, including through the militarization of the police and the use of violence against civilian populations.

These phenomena, which have been part and parcel of Israeli and U.S. forms of control, have come under the media spotlight in recent years. Protests in Ferguson over a white police officer’s fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, were met with tear gas, rubber bullets, and lines of riot police in military-style body armor. Although this particular killing attracted national attention, it was by no means novel. Pointing out the precariousness of black life in the United States, a recent report by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement noted that “police officers, security guards, or self-appointed vigilantes extra-judicially killed at least 1,313 African-Americans between 2012 and 2015.

As in Palestine, resistance in the streets of Ferguson has been met with violence, leading several shocked Ferguson protesters to compare the local police to Israeli occupation forces. Some analysts pointed out that Ferguson and St. Louis County police forces had even received training in Israel. Drawing his own parallels, Stanford senior Kristian Davis Bailey described what he witnessed on a recent trip to Palestine as a “dystopic mashup of the pass laws Blacks faced in apartheid South Africa and the cruel humiliation of the Jim Crow South.”

These similarities are not coincidental. As Israel’s most prominent backer, the United States underwrites Israeli repression to the tune of over $3 billion dollars a year. Yet that influence is not unidirectional—the United States borrows Israeli legal justifications as well as militarized policing tactics and forms of torture employed in prisons. There is also the shared equipment and services supplied by private security companies to both states. By providing sustenance for the politics of fear that underpins the “war on terror,” these practices further institutionalize racism, increase hostility towards Muslim and Arab communities in the United States, and justify intervention in Muslim and Arab countries.

As sociologist Lisa Hajjar argues, “One way a government can project the appearance of acting in accordance with the law is to produce interpretations that the law does not apply.” Both Israel and the United States have used such legal obfuscation and evasion, as well as the elaboration and adoption of new laws, to justify inhumane treatment and oppressive rule. It is often not violations of the law, but rather the law itself that functions as a tool of power.

Mass incarceration has a devastating impact on individuals and communities. As a form of state terror, it is designed to strike fear in whole communities and prevent the establishment of sustainable bonds, based on justice and respect, between state and society. By breaking up and isolating members of movements and pressuring individuals to collaborate, dissimulate, and betray their beliefs, it causes alienation among brothers, sisters, and comrades. And with the law often functioning in service of power rather than justice, prisons serve as the handmaiden of legal oppression.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
Political Analyst/Writer
World Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: -Paulholtministries-California prison inmates

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

CAR: The rushed Elections annulled.....

Central African Republic constitutional Court has annulled last December legislatives results, citing irregularities, setting back a transition to democracy after years of conflict. ''The Court has decided to cancel the legislative election of December 30 2015 and to reschedule it for the whole country''. Zacharie Ndouba, the Court's president, said on Monday.

The Court decision raises questions over the next steps for the electoral process since the former French colony could now find itself with a president but no new parliament. Prior to those elections many questioned the feasibility and timing of last December elections. The matter fact is CAR is not ready to organize any elections as long as the country remains riddled with violence, insecurity and instability. The voices of those who claimed that the electoral process was rushed have been justified by this court annulment.

Although CAR's transitional President, Catherine Samba-Panza claimed supporting the December elections, many in the country believed that CAR was not ready for an election. The mandate for CAR's political transition, which established a temporary government after the overthrow of President Francois Bozize by the Seleka rebel group in 2013, expired on December 31. So the international community, in particular France, pushed for the country to hold elections before that date, at all costs, in order to bring that transition to an end.

Last December legislative and presidential elections were originally scheduled to take place in February 2015, but were repeatedly delayed due to security concerns and the failure to register all voters. Another outbreak of deadly violence in the capital, Bangui, last September-in which 77 people were killed, 300 injured and 40,000 people displaced, forced the delay.  In Oct 9 2015, Dieudonné Kombo Yaya, former president of the National Election Authority, resigned, citing pressure from CAR presidency and the international community.

Significant obstacles remained in the way of a free and fair vote. Following the Bangui violence last September, there had been almost daily reports of unrest in several regions of the country, including around the central towns of Bambari and Kaga Bandoro. It was clear that elections in that climate it would not had been inclusive and fair. In fact it was dangerous and feared that rushed elections could fuel further instability.

The September clashes had chilling echoes of the inter-religious violence that wrecked the country in 2013 and 2014 and highlighted how little progress has been made in neutralizing armed groups and bringing perpetrators of that violence to justice. That includes both those affiliated with former Seleka rebels, a mainly Muslim group, and predominantly Christian militias known as anti-balaka. No formal process of disarmament, demobilization and reconciliation has been launched, despite pledges to do so as a national transition reconciliation forum in May 2015. Meanwhile, armed groups remain in control of several districts in Bangui and other parts of the country.

Although the United Nations peacekeeping force in CAR, known by its French acronym MINUSCA, has around 11,000 boots on the ground, it has been unable to make much progress reining in these groups and providing security. There have been claims that leaders of both the former Seleka and the anti-balaka militias are actively contributing to the continuing instability.

In early October 2015, international forces had to intervene to stop militiamen loyal to a former Seleka leader, Nourredine Adam, from marching on Bangui. On his return to CAR after almost a year out of the country, Adam announced that he was opposed to holding elections at the end 2015.

Beyond security, there had been ongoing delays in voter registration in a country where millions of people have no official documentation and citizenship verification processes, had been heavily criticized. Registration was yet completed in the the country's camps for internally displaced persons, many of which were inaccessible areas of the country where the poor condition of roads were exacerbated by rainy season. Particularly in the north and west of CAR, there continued deep-seated suspicious of Muslims, many of whom have family links with Chad and Sudan, among some Christian communities that considered them foreigners who should not have the right to vote.

France's desire to see elections held in 2015 stemmed its wish to withdraw its remaining 900 peacekeepers, referred to as Sangaris after the name of France's operation in CAR. France already has a considerable security burden in West and Central Africa in the form of the 3,000-strong Operation Barkhane, a counterterrorism force across the Sahel region that is headquartered in Chad's capital, N'Djamena. But France's apparent need to relieve its overstretched military by distancing itself from CAR's transition raises questions about who else can act as a guarantor to secure a future peace.

Chad, which has in the past often played a behind-the-scenes but deciding role in CAR's political affairs, has kept something of a low profile since the withdrawal of its troops from MISCA, the African Union's peacekeeping force in CAR, in 2014 after they killed civilians in Bangui.

Although Adam, the Seleka leader, reported recently visited Chad, President Idriss Deby has only reiterated the official French line, saying in Paris in early October that the transition period must end as soon as possible. Many question whether the Economic Community of Central African States, which has been involved in approving CAR's electoral timetable, has the political clout to push though the process.

Now the clock is turned back on CAR's electoral process, The prospects for a durable peace in CAR look dim, and another round of rushed elections could only compound that. Questions remain about whether the relatively short phase of talks for a political transition has been able to achieve anything concrete.

Without disarmament and genuine reconciliation, CAR risks having a repeat of the same violence in years to come. The international community, particularly France and the UN, must back off, allowing a more realistic timetable for new elections and instead focus on security, stability, reconciliation and the restoration of state authority. Bringing the CAR back from decades of misrule and interreligious violence requires patience and broad based development efforts.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist
African Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: Le Monde--

CHINA: Building Military Base in Djibouti

China and Djibouti have reached consensus on building logistical facilities in the African state for the use of China's military. The news confirms reports that have been swirling since may 2015, when Djibouti's President Ismail Omar Guelleh said his country was in discussions with the Chinese over a possible military base. China's Foreign Ministry confirmed the negotiations for the first time in November 2015.

The two countries have also sealed three economic deals: one establishing a free trade zone in Djibouti; one increasing Djibouti's role as transshipment hub for trade between China and rest of the world; and one regarding a legal framework what would allow Chinese banks to operate in Djibouti.

The trade agreement emphasize that Djibouti's strategic location at the intersection of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden is attractive for China far more than military reasons. In fact, the country is ideal spot for inclusion of China's 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which will stretch from China to the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Aden, and up the Red Sea through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean. Egypt is already on board for the project; Djibouti is another natural hub for the ''Belt and Road''.

The newly agreed-upon free trade zone and the use of Djibouti as transshipment center both point to such role. If the Maritime Silk Road unfolds as planned, increased trade through the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea will mean more need for anti-piracy missions (China has been active in anti-piracy operations in the region since 2008)-which makes it even more crucial for China to have resupply facilities nearby. While the Maritime Silk Road and its overland twin are military initiatives, it is easy to see how military strategy will follow economic investment. Djibouti, soon to be home to China's first overseas military facility, is a prime example.

Friendly relations/ties between China and Djibouti have been evolving in recent years. Economic ties have developed rapidly, reflecting above all Beijing's growing investment in Ethiopia. The renovated Addis-Djibouti railway will directly link Ethiopia both to the Doraleh container port and a vast new Chinese-funded and constructed port facility in Khor Ambado. Both sides lie just to the west of Djibouti's capital city. China has also obtained an equity stake in the the state-run port authority, and recently agreed to construct a new civilian airport.

Djibouti's small economy is essentially a gateway: the vast majority of Addis Ababa's fast growing trade flows transit through Djibouti's new container and oils terminals. China's reconstruction of the 460-mile railway to Addis Ababa is almost complete. from this year, this will further boost trade ties and amplify current flows of foreign direct investment-notably Chinese and Turkish-into both countries.

China is not the only country, attracted to build military bases or economical trade in Djibouti because of its strategically important position and its stable and secure government. The matter fact is that Djibouti has set of regional and international partners.

Djibouti shared extensive linguistic and trade link not only with Ethiopia, but also with Somaliland and Somalia, where it also contributes troops to the the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISCOM). Being culturally and geographically close to Yemen, Djibouti has received both evacuated foreign nationals and Yemenis fleeing the current fighting. Many now take refuge in the small northern port of Obock, and the country has become a significant hub for humanitarian assistance to Yemen. Djiboutians also have substantive, albeit fractions, economic ties with the United Arab Emirates, Dubai Ports World manages their container port, which currently the subject of complex litigation.

Internationally, Djibouti's main partners include key Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Arab League states. Djibouti hosts the United States' only permanent military base in Africa: AFRICOM's Camp Lemonier. The base currently has almost 4,000 U.S. personnel, with its lease having been renewed last year for a further 10 years. Visiting Djibouti on May 6 2015, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry underscored the expansion of U.S. bilateral ties and Djibouti's central role in multilateral operations. The latter encompass broader anti-terror operations-including drone strikes in Yemen and Somalia-and a range on anti-piracy initiatives.

Djibouti is also the operational base for the European Union anti-piracy mission EUNAVFOR. In April 2015, NATO opened a liaison office there. In 2011, Japan chose Djibouti as the location of their first-ever post 1945 overseas military facility, where 600 troops now complement Tokyo's maritime and civil operation program. With a Japanese-funded anti-piracy headquarters now overshadowed by a vast Chinese port and free-trace zone construction site, Djibouti is fast consolidating its role as the world's foremost multinational maritime laboratory.

Amid such diversified alliances, it is easy to overlook the fact that Djibouti remains France;s largest military base in Africa. As a platform for Franco-American and NATO military cooperation, it still eclipses Chad-host to France's Barkhane force in the Sahel. Alongside persistent French military and diplomatic ties, elite Djiboutians maintain their links to the francophone world, including Quebec, which hosts a significant Djiboutian diaspora.

China's latest military base building project and trade links with Djibouti, is the latest of China's intensive campaign of visiting the African continent. China's irruption onto the African scene has been the most dramatic and important factor in the external relations of the continent--perhaps in the development of Africa as whole--since the end of the Cold War, because European-American influence in the continent is waning. ''The African leaders have married China, the most attractive bride on the world market, and now the West is complaining about its unwanted rival'',

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist
Researcher/World Affairs Expert
Lecturer

Photo-Credit: Agence France Presse-photo of: Chinese Foreign Minister & Djibouti President-Beijing-March 13 2015.

Monday, 25 January 2016

EUROPE: European Union myths debunked

Most people who dive into understanding how things work in Brussels find out the hard way: the way things work in this town is rarely, if ever, shocking enough to be bothered with. Like most things we hear about the European Union, the reality is far less conspiratorial, interesting or polemic. 

While EU Officials scramble to rebut sensational news stories about what they are plotting to ban next, anti-EU activists are just as busy challenging what they see as self-serving propaganda. “The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic”, John F. Kennedy once said – it’s difficult to imagine he wasn’t thinking of Brussels.
Let us take a look at the three most prominent examples in which overblown legend meets boring reality. 
30,000 lobbyists, so a common tale about the European Union goes, work towards influencing decisions that will affect member states in the long run. A look at the accredited visitors’ register of the European Parliament – the place to be for anyone who would like to have a touch of influence  – paints a far less gray picture: at the time of writing this article, only 5,462 people have access to the European Parliament. 

Considering the fact that some persons with the right to chit-chat with decision-makers have a back office with one to three people, a more reasonable number to juggle with would be a count of around 10,000 to 25,000 lobbyists. Are all of those lobbyists business-oriented? 

Contrary to common folklore, a third of all interest representations are citizens’ groups: That is, groups that speak on behalf of and for European citizens. Surprisingly to most, studies show that citizens’ groups have been substantially more successful in whispering in the ears of institutions than business-oriented groups. The average lobbying success rate for citizens’ groups is 53 percent; that of business groups is 5 percent.
When Jaques Delors, former President of the European Commission, addressed the Parliament in 1988, he noted that “in ten years 80 percent of the legislation related to economics, maybe also to taxes and social affairs, will be of Community origin”. 
Twenty-eight years later we know: le grand Jaques Delors was wrong. His claim, however, has outlived him, the fairy tale of the 80 percent lived on. But how much EU is actually to be found in our national legislation? 

The number in the studies of the brave few who set out to measure the impossible varies from country to country: The scope of impact of EU legislation on national legislation has been found to be 38 percent in the Netherlands; in contrast, only 9.6 percent of new primary and secondary law of the UK has its origin in Brussels. 

A new study estimates that around 39.1 percent of all German laws between 1983 and 2005 were influenced by “European impulses”. Hence, cut Delors’ percentage by half and you’ll still overestimate the impact of the European Union on national legislation.
A golden EU rule goes: spread a falsehood and you will find yourself in all major newspapers; publish facts and figures and you will dine alone in Brussels. A trenchant example of the EU’s very own version of Murphy’s Law is the alleged EU ban on toasters. Be it the British Telegraph, German Bild, or the Italian Corriere della Sera: all proudly joined in bashing the EU for its mischievous plan to ban double-slotted toasters. So what is true? 

In one of its impact assessments, the Commission asked Deloitte, a consultancy, to analyze what electronic devices use the most energy. Page 56 of the consultancy’s assessment mentions briefly that double-slotted toasters use up unnecessary energy. The newspapers’ accusations were far-fetched – there was no attempt to ban anything, nor was the study conducted by one of the institutions.
The disappointing, boring truth is: there are fewer lobbyists than we assume there are; institutions would rather listen to citizens’ groups than business interests; and the impact of EU law is less important than we think it is. 

Does this make it a perfect place? No. If it’s a crime to be dead boring and technically complex, the Union is guilty of all charges. If you put together the pages of the impact assessments that the Commission has published in the last 10 years, one could pave a two-meter-wide street leading from Naples to Helsinki. 

The truth is, like all things regarding democracy, the EU is a far cry from a perfect construction. A new model of governance evolves with time and useful criticism. Constructive critique starts with first getting our facts straight in order to attack what is worth attacking. We won’t be short of material.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist/Writer
Political Analyst/Researcher
World Affairs Expert
Lecturer

Photo-Credit: European Union-The European Union Flag-Photo

WORLD: The Politics-Economics of wars

In his 1910 book The Great Illusion (1910), British economist Norman Angell discussed the futility of wars in a world of states which are heavily interdependent on one another. Mr Angell did not believe that wars between heavily interdependent states were a thing of the past but he insisted that these states would be less likely to fight wars because of the economic ruin that would follow.

While many have debated the relationship between interstate war and economics, what about the impact of a freeze in relations on interstate trade? This deserves more attention.

Politics plays a role in economics, especially in cases where mutual distrust and the possibility of conflict is high. US political scientist Brian Pollins’ 1989 paper used - to demonstrate the role that politics plays in affecting trade relations - the USA-Egyptian trade after Camp David peace treaty with Israel, and East Germany’s Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik, which normalised relations between the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic in 1969.

But while interstate wars in the post Cold-war era have been few, rivalries and tensions persist even among states that are generally perceived as allies. From a business perspective, nationalistic fervour is generally sidelined when commercial interests are at hand.

Despite political tensions arising from the Gaza flotilla crisis in May 2010 – in which an Israeli commando raid on a Turkish aid flotilla bound for Gaza led to the loss of nine lives – businesses both countries continued to trade with each other.

Tensions between France which was anti-Iraq war, and the US, which was pro-war, arose following the States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003. There were calls for trade boycotts and in the US this manifested itself in calls for a ban on French wine.

However, trade between both France and the US continued to flourish with an increase in trade of US$979 million in 2003 and US$2.39 billion the following year. Because it was highly unlikely that prolonged crises in either of these cases would have lead to an all-out war, businesses on both sides saw no reason to cut commercial ties.

But what of the relationship between Japan and China? This is different from the French/US and Turkey/Israel cases. There is well-documented animosity between Japan and China, with hostility going back hundreds of years, leading to many disputes, including the Sino-Japanese war of 1894 when Japan began to emerge as a global power.

Japan’s refusal to acknowledge its war crimes during the Second World War led to further strained ties with China, while China’s declarations of sovereignty in the East and South China Seas over territories that Japan – and other countries – lay claim to, have been regarded by many in the international community as violations of international law.

Violent skirmishes at sea between Japan and China are not uncommon and leaders from both countries have hinted that the crisis could escalate from political posturing. It is often stated that the relationship between Japan and China is an example of political tensions having little affected economic relations.

However, this is not the case. This prolonged crisis has affected trade on both sides. Japanese direct investment with China went down dramatically in 2013-2014 (by about a fifth in 2013 and a further 40% in the first quarter of 2014).

Such is the consternation from both nations about the huge decline in trade volumes that they are signalling their intentions to resume high- level talks to try to ease their political tensions.
Although the Japanese are worried about China’s slowing growth, as well as the hurdles placed by China’s environmental legislation, a thaw in relations can do nothing but help both states economically.

So, what can we learn from these examples? It’s that politics does play a major role in shaping economics in instances where the crises are prolonged or mutual trust is minimal - or both.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
World Affairs Expert
Researcher/Investigative Journalist

Photo-Credit: Lecturer- Guylain Gustave Moke