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Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘federalism

[LINK] “Kadyrov and Putin: parallel lives”

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Nina Jobe and Karena Avedissian at Open Democracy look at the strange symbiosis between Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov.

On 3 June, a group of masked men attacked the offices of the regional branch of the Russian Committee Against Torture in Grozny, Chechnya, destroying computers and documents, and damaging the organisation’s car. The police did not respond to calls by staff about the attack, and the Committee Against Torture reports that the attackers went about their business ‘slowly’, as if they knew the police were not going to be dispatched.

The Russian authorities have remained silent on the case, just as they remain silent on the de facto legalisation of polygamy and forced marriage in Chechnya, and the de facto acquittal of people close to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov who are suspects in the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. But these events prompt questions about the extent to which Chechnya remains a genuine subject of the Russian Federation, and highlight a deeper tension between the federal authorities and Chechnya – now boiling over after years of Kadyrov’s rule.

[. . .]

Chechnya is perhaps the most striking case of this asymmetry [between national and regional governments]. This has been exemplified in large part by Kadyrov’s repeated defiance and disregard of Russia’s federal laws. Kadyrov’s recent conflicts with the FSB – most notably when he threatened to have his men fire on federal troops who operated on Chechen territory without his blessing – and the silence of Vladimir Putin and other members of the Russian elite, have only highlighted this situation further.

For instance, when opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was murdered metres from the Kremlin’s walls in late February, blame quickly fell on men close to Kadyrov. The Chechen leader publicly came to the defence of one of the accused, Zaur Dadayev, and refused to turn over the others. Dadayev was an officer in Kadyrov’s private army, the Sever Battalion, as was Ruslan Geremeyev, another high-ranking member of the battalion, who is alleged to have been involved in organising the murder. Geremeyev has since fled abroad.

With the lack of a pushback or even a statement from the Kremlin for these acts, Moscow’s authority is beginning to lose traction. While this is sometimes mistaken for outright favouritism or even the opening of a ‘soft exit’ for Chechnya from the Russian Federation, this particular free rein of power resembles what Kimberly Marten calls ‘outsourcing sovereignty.’

Written by Randy McDonald

June 29, 2015 at 10:37 pm

[LINK] “Federal Court orders government and RCMP to hand over all Quebec gun registry data for safekeeping”

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Wow. Hosted at the National Post, Bruce Cheadle’s Canadian Press article tells a damning tale of the government.

A Federal Court judge has ordered that Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney and the RCMP commissioner immediately hand over an external hard drive containing a copy of all Quebec gun registry data.

Judge Luc Martineau gave the government until 10 a.m. Tuesday morning to deliver the hard drive to the court — effectively issuing a vote of non-confidence in government assurances that all the remaining long-gun registry records would be preserved while court challenges continue.

It’s the first decisive legal skirmish in a battle that could last for some time between information commissioner Suzanne Legault and the Harper government over the long-defunct long-gun registry.

[. . .]

Martineau’s order came after a day-long hearing in which Justice department lawyers argued it was unnecessary to produce an actual physical copy of the records because the public safety minister had issued “four separate undertakings” to preserve the data.

Lawyer Richard Dearden, representing Legault, presented affidavits, letters and email evidence showing that previous assurances from the Conservative government in 2012 were ignored as it pushed for the speedy destruction of all gun registry records outside the province of Quebec.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 25, 2015 at 11:02 pm

[LINK] “Straightening Europe’s crooked timber into a democratic eurozone”

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Open Democracy’s Mathew Lawrence considers at length how to improve democratic governance in the European Union, or at least the Eurozone.

The Eurozone’s nemesis – the ongoing Greek debt crisis – has once again returned to centre stage. With Greece’s existing bailout package expiring in just nine days time, today in Brussels the Greek government and its creditors – the ECB, the IMF, the European Commission and the Eurogroup – are meeting in a last-minute attempt to find a deal that can avoid default.

Much is at stake. Without an agreement, Greece risks defaulting, potentially triggering an exit from the Eurozone that could cause economic turbulence across the world economy. For the Greek people, meanwhile, the conditions of the bailout continue to extract a heavy social cost: unemployment has spiralled to 26 per cent, and food consumption has fallen by 28.5 per cent since austerity measures have been introduced. Both sides desperately require breathing space.

Yet whatever the outcome, the latest day of drama is unlikely to be the last. For the intransigence of the crisis is underpinned by a central contradiction: what is necessary is near-impossible politically. Critically, while monetary union necessarily involves losing – or pooling – some form of sovereignty, the creation of the Eurozone and its various coercive economic instruments has not been matched by political or fiscal union, with little democratic accountability or control over the decision-making institutions of the Eurozone. Central to any efforts at reforming the EU must therefore be grasping the nettle implied by the creation of the Euro: the economic logic of monetary union must be matched politically. Monetary union requires deeper fiscal and banking union which in turn requires greater political union.

This necessity – of deeper integration to overcome the debt crisis matched by more effective democratic decision-making within the Eurozone’s structure – is near-impossible, however, in a Europe deeply divided between the interests of creditor and debtor states and their different political economies, between the ‘core’ dominated by Germany and the ‘periphery’ of southern Europe.

Nonetheless, a way forward must be found, both to resuscitate the effective power of the democracies of the debtor states of the Eurozone and to strengthen the economies of Europe more generally. For in an effort to sustain the single currency, the governance regime of the Eurozone has transformed in recent years, progressively neutralising democracies across the debtor states of southern Europe and undermining their right to oppose decisions imposed upon them by a technocratic-led centre. For example, the European Semester System (2010), the Euro Plus Pact (2011) and the Fiscal Compact (2012) have steadily eroded the ability of debtor states within the Eurozone to control their tax and spend decisions, the very stuff of democratic government.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 23, 2015 at 10:57 pm

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

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  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly comes out in favour of not trying to lead the life of an overachiever.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper noting the extent to which circumstellar habitable zones are influenced by the evolution of their stars.
  • The Everyday Sociology Blog considers the sociology of summer vacations. Who gets to take one?
  • Language Hat notes the complexities of Unicode.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the sweatshops of Argentina.
  • The Planetary Society Blog’s Emily Lakdawalla shares the latest pictures of Pluto while Jason Davis shares the first photos taken from the interior of the Society’s solar sail.
  • Towleroad notes Caitlyn Jenner’s outpouring of support on Twitter.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the practical collapse of federalism in Russia.

[ISL] “‘We’re not Australian': Norfolk Islanders adjust to shock of takeover by mainland”

Writing in The Guardian, Melissa Davey describes–with photos by Zach Sanders–the circumstances that have led to the suspension of the autonomous government of Norfolk Island by the Australian government. In all honesty, if the island is unable to finance services adequately from its own resources, some degree of greater involvement by the national government is probably necessary. (Surgery is impossible to perform on the island due to the lack of facilities, for instance.) This much more involvement? I’m also wondering if parallels can be made with policy on the Australian mainland, specifically with Aborigine settlements that are facing the end of government services and thus depopulation.

The threat of coming under Australian government law, order and taxation has been looming over the island for decades, with the commonwealth claiming the local government is broke, and that it lacks the money and resources to deliver health, education, justice and welfare services to an Australian standard.

Already, memorandums of understanding exist between Norfolk Island and the mainland for the delivery of services including education and healthcare.

But for many islanders, including [Norfolk Island’s chief minister, Lisle Snell], the decision to abolish the Norfolk Island government has hit hard. All Norfolk Island laws will now be rolled in to New South Wales ones, with any legislation on the island that Australia considers outdated or inappropriate removed or replaced.

Australians know little about Norfolk Island, an idyllic, tax-free haven, even though it is just over a two-hour flight from Sydney and advertises itself as an ideal tourist destination. Despite its status as an external territory of the commonwealth, getting to the island requires an international flight, immigration clearance and a passport.

It doesn’t take much time on the island to realise that many Norfolk Islanders, too, have little knowledge of the Australian systems that will soon be imposed upon them. That will no doubt change now the transition period has begun to bring the island’s 1,277 residents under the federal taxation, immigration and welfare system.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 25, 2015 at 6:28 pm

[LINK] “Why The SNP Is Poised To Win In Scotland”

At Five Thirty Eight, John Curtice makes the case why the Scottish National Party is expected to sweep the country come the impending British elections. Despite the referendum setback, the party is credible in a way its peers simply are not.

[M]any voters who back Scottish independence have hitherto not voted for the SNP in a U.K. general election. According to the Scottish Social Attitudes survey, only 55 percent did so in the last election in 2010, for example. Consequently, the SNP won only 20 percent of the total vote in Scotland (and six seats) on that occasion, well below the 45 percent it was to achieve in the devolved election just 12 months later. Labour, in contrast, maintained its dominant position in the 2010 election, with 42 percent of the vote and 41 seats.

However, the referendum has served to make support for independence and backing the SNP more or less synonymous, even in the context of a U.K.-wide election. Last September’s ballot focused voters’ minds — and especially the minds of those who voted for independence — on the future of Scotland. The question of who might be best able to govern Britain as a whole has been put in the shade. Consequently, supporters of independence see little reason why they should not follow up their “yes” vote with a vote for the SNP in May’s general election.

Recent polling evidence suggests that as many as 84 percent of those who voted “yes” in September (and who are willing to indicate how they will vote in May) now say they intend to vote for the SNP on May 7.1 Included among these “yes” supporters are the 40 percent or so of 2010 Labour voters who voted for independence, over three-quarters of whom are now backing the SNP.2 Conversely, only around one in 10 of those who voted “no” in September are now backing the nationalists — though that is still more or less enough to compensate for the limited number who voted “yes” in September but are now not backing the SNP.

However, the increased salience of the independence debate in voters’ minds is not the only reason that many former Labour supporters have switched to the SNP. During the referendum campaign, the SNP was also able to lay out its vision for the country, claiming that an independent Scotland could be a more equal Scotland. This argument directly challenged Labour’s position that it was better able to bring about greater social justice, not least by using the resources and the institutions of the U.K.

It is an argument that seems to have hit home.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 10, 2015 at 9:49 pm

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • The Big Picture has photos of the winter snowtowns in New England.
  • blogTO has old photos of various Toronto intersections.
  • Centauri Dreams notes how atmospheres can break the tidal locks of close-orbiting planets.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze suggests Fomalhaut b is a false positive, speculates on the evaporation time of hot Jupiters, and wonders if planetoids impacting on white dwarfs can trigger Type Ia supernovas.
  • The Dragon’s Tales considers the status of the Brazilian navy, notes the Egyptian purchase of 24 Rafale fighters from France, and observes that Russia no longer has early-warning satellites.
  • The Everyday Sociology Blog looks at the sociology of the red carpet.
  • Far Outliers assesses the achievements and problems of Chiang Kai-shek.
  • A Fistful of Euros notes intra-European negotiations over Greece.
  • Joe. My. God. notes the progress of a same-sex marriage bill in Slovenia.
  • Languages of the World argues that of all of the minority languages of Russia, Tuvan is the least endangered.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the Confederate diaspora in Brazil.
  • Marginal Revolution suggests that the larger the American state the more likely it is to be unequal, notes that South Korean wages have exceeded Japanese wages for the first time, and looks at anti-Valentine’s Day men in Japan.
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  • Out of Ambit’s Diane Duane notes how a German translator of her Star Trek novels put subtle advertisements for soup in.
  • The Planetary Society Blog shares photos from Rosetta of its target comet.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer is skeptical about the Nicaragua Canal, wonders about Greece in the Eurozone, looks at instability in Venezuela, and suggests an inverse relationship between social networking platforms–mass media, even–and social capital.
  • Spacing Toronto wonders if the Scarborough subway will survive.
  • Towleroad notes popular American-born Russian actor Odin Biron’s coming out and observes that Antonin Scalia doesn’t want people to call him anti-gay.
  • Understanding Society’s Daniel Little looks at the forces which lead to the split of communtiies.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests that the non-Russian republics of Russia will survive, argues that Putin’s Russia is already fascist, and notes that Russians overwhelmingly support non-traditional families.

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