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The Improbable Rise and Endless Heroism of Volodymyr Zelensky. As I write this, Volodymyr Zelensky, the most improbable national leader in the world, just might be the world’s most popular. By now everyone knows his life story’s surreal outline: a comedian who rose to fame with a portrayal of a president becomes the real thing, then transcends it. The erstwhile Ukrainian voice of Paddington Bear, the star of a dozen shitty comedies and one decent one, he first stared down Trump over their “perfect” phone call—if you recall, 45 tried making aid to Ukraine conditional on a “small favor,” i.e. a sham investigation into the Bidens, and got impeached for his troubles—and is now staring down Putin on the streets of his besieged capital.

A huge part of Zelensky’s global resonance is that he seems to fit a type everyone knows the world over, because, thanks to millennia of persecution, the type exists the world over: a Jewish wiseacre. The idea of one of those (of us, I should say), becoming a wartime icon is in itself a perfect Jewish joke.

Speaking Truth to Power

MPs are threatening to barricade themselves in if Boris Johnson prorogues parliament – here's why they should be taken seriously. Queen Elizabeth II has consented to a request to prorogue parliament. It is clear that her chief minister, Boris Johnson, intends to compromise the protective bastion of British democracy. For several centuries the residual powers still held by the monarchy have been used sparingly. For a long time, the British public has been able to comfort itself that these powers are generally dormant. But the decision to suspend the democratically elected House of Commons spells the end for complacency.

The move is a reminder that the UK is still a monarchy. Former prime minister, John Major, Brexit campaigner, Gina Miller, and many MPs of most parties have made public their determination to prevent Johnson from closing parliament – a move, in their view, designed to drive through a no-deal Brexit. And there is precedent that will give them hope. Murky powers and revolutions It may well be that this should be considered a valid response to Johnson’s actions. What’s French for ‘prorogation’? Democracy is dying – and it’s startling how few people are worried | Paul Mason | Opinion. A rough inventory of July’s contribution to the global collapse of democracy would include Turkey’s show trial of leading journalists from Cumhuriyet, a major newspaper; Vladimir Putin’s ban on the virtual private networks used by democracy activists to evade censorship; Apple’s decision to pull the selfsame technology from its Chinese app store.

Then there is Hungary’s government-funded poster campaign depicting opposition parties and NGOs as puppets of Jewish billionaire George Soros; Poland’s evisceration of judicial independence and the presidential veto that stopped it. Plus Venezuela’s constituent assembly poll, boycotted by more than half the population amid incipient civil war. Overshadowing all this is a three-cornered US constitutional face-off between Trump (accused of links with Russia), his attorney general (who barred himself from investigating the Russian links) and the special prosecutor who is investigating Trump, whom Trump is trying to sack.

​The age of humanism is ending | Opinion | Analysis. There is no sign that 2017 will be much different from 2016. Under Israeli occupation for decades, Gaza will still be the biggest open prison on Earth. In the United States, the killing of black people at the hands of the police will proceed unabated and hundreds of thousands more will join those already housed in the prison-industrial complex that came on the heels of plantation slavery and Jim Crow laws. Europe will continue its slow descent into liberal authoritarianism or what cultural theorist Stuart Hall called authoritarian populism. Despite complex agreements reached at international forums, the ecological destruction of the Earth will continue and the war on terror will increasingly morph into a war of extermination between various forms of nihilism.

Inequalities will keep growing worldwide. With the triumph of this neo-Darwinian approach to history-making, apartheid under various guises will be restored as the new old norm. None of the above is accidental. Alain Badiou: Reflections on the Recent Election | 9th November 2016 | UCLA. Alain Badiou’s talk on 9th Novem­ber, 2016 at Uni­ver­sity of Cali­for­nia, Los Ange­les, co-sponsored by the pro­gram in Exper­i­ment­al Crit­ic­al The­ory and the Center for European and Rus­si­an Stud­ies. Tran­script: I was think­ing about French poetry, which is in a play of Racine, in fact. It’s a beau­ti­ful, beau­ti­ful sen­tence. In French: “C’était pendant l’horreur d’une pro­fonde nuit.” In Eng­lish: “It was dur­ing the hor­ror of a pro­found night.” May­be Racine was think­ing of the elec­tion of Trump. It was dur­ing the hor­ror of a pro­found night. So, I begin by a very gen­er­al vis­ion, not of the situ­ation of the United States today, but the situ­ation of the world today.

So, we can define our moment as the moment of the prim­it­ive con­vic­tion of lib­er­al­ism as dom­in­ant in the form that private prop­er­ty and free mar­ket com­pose the unique pos­sible des­tiny of human beings. Now, what are the polit­ic­al effects of all that, at the level of polit­ic­al life? Owen Jones: the Right are mocking Jeremy Corbyn because they fear him. "Get Corbyn" is nothing if not an inclusive campaign. The liberal left and conservatives alike have united, dripping condescension, smarm, contempt or outright bile on Jeremy Corbyn and those who support him. The Corbyn campaign may have unleashed the biggest pan-British progressive grassroots political movement for many years, but it has few friends either in the media establishment or Westminster. And should Jeremy Corbyn win the Labour leadership – and it is by no means sewn up, despite the compelling evidence that awards him frontrunner status – then this movement will be plunged into a political firestorm.

So, with just a few weeks before the result is announced, it is probably time to prepare. What would a Jeremy Corbyn victory look like? Firstly, it is worth understanding the attitude of the right. But the troll right has been eclipsed by a far more savvy – and nervous – right. Such an achievement is now in great danger. Here's why Allister Heath's fears are well-grounded. The resistible rise of Nigel Farage | Jonathan Jones. Looking at Nigel Farage posing like a movie gangster in a publicity photo for his American trip – the cosy pint he affects for British audiences replaced by a macho cigar – I found myself thinking of Bertolt Brecht’s play The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. In his 1941 satire on the far, far right, Brecht portrays Adolf Hitler as a Chicago mobster whose thuggish rise to power is made possible by his enemies’ weakness – his rise was “resistible”. Farage is not Hitler, of course – I would not dream of giving him that much historical significance – but he looks a hell of a lot like Arturo Ui in this photograph.

It appears on publicity material in the US, where he has gone down like a stormtrooper – sorry, a storm! – at a conservative Republican rally with his ramped-up rhetoric about the west’s “Judeo-Christian values” being undermined by an Islamist “fifth column”. American republicans apparently believe he may “run Britain”. It is easy to laugh at that idea from this side of the Atlantic. Cable companies 'stunned' by Obama's 'extreme' net neutrality proposals | Technology. America’s major telecoms and cable companies and business groups came out fighting on Monday after Barack Obama called for tough new regulations for broadband that would protect net neutrality, saying they were “stunned” by the president’s proposals.

The president called for new regulations to protect “net neutrality” – the principle that all traffic on the internet should be treated equally. His move came as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) finalises a new set of proposals for regulation after the old rules were overturned by a series of court defeats at the hands of cable and telecom companies. In response, Republican senator Ted Cruz went so far as to call Obama’s proposal for regulating the web “Obamacare for the internet”, saying on Twitter “the internet should not operate at the speed of government.”

The cable and telcoms giants are particularly concerned by Obama’s call for FCC to reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.

Tony Benn

At a knife’s edge: elections and democracy in Thailand. Gripped by a deadly crisis, with civil unrest and election boycotts spreading, the people and politicians of Thailand once again find themselves back in the global media headlines. Unfortunately, much of the coverage is superficial hype, which is normally what happens when outsider journalists buzz in and out of a country (‘clusterfuck’, as some say), hastily file their reports, then move on to the next episode of breaking news, wherever it is happening. Fellow journalists elsewhere on the planet predictably join the chorus. Perched at their desks, working to tight deadlines, they repeat what's just been said. The resulting coverage becomes cosmetically sealed: it shuns the unfamiliar, ignores the cutting-edge qualities of the unfolding drama, misjudges its larger historical significance. As the case of Thailand shows, the overall result is paradoxical: news kills its own novelty.

The life-and-death events gripping Thailand deserve much more careful treatment. Theresa May's plans for terror suspects undermine democracy | Zygmunt Bauman. On 26 August 1789, mostly by the votes of its third estate members, the National Assembly of France adopted the Déclaration universelle des droits de l'homme et du citoyen; on 9 November it became the law. The rest is history – long and wobbly. Long – as the ideas of the declaration, having lost little of their topicality, continue their gradual, slow yet relentless conquest of the globe to this very day. And wobbly, as like most of the epochal documents, the foundational ideas expressed in the declaration – that all humans are equally endowed by nature with the right to dignified life and self-assertion – had its measure of implacable critics (including, among many others, Edmund Burke and Jeremy Bentham).

From the very beginning, doubts were voiced as to whether the link between imagination and practices was strong enough. The Crisis of the Democracies by Stéphane Hessel and Edgar Morin. Stéphane Hessel, editor of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Edgar Morin believe it is our right to do more than merely survive. (With free eBook download.) Photograph via Flickr by Giant Ginkgo Download The Path to Hope as an eBook here, courtesy Other Press Under good government, poverty is shameful; under bad government, wealth is shameful. —Confucius The true life is absent. Why Reform and Transform?

The glittering success of individualism has brought with it the miserable deterioration of fellowship. Let us now recite the ills of our civilization: Where it has taken root, material prosperity has failed to bring about any real increase in happiness or mental well-being, as is evidenced by the unbridled consumption of illegal narcotics, anti-anxiety drugs, antidepressants, and sleeping pills by the well-to-do. In our society there is a shortage of empathy, sympathy, and compassion. At the same time, the finest achievements of our own history are coming under fire. 1. 2. Snowden, Surveillance And The Secret State. In Alerts 2013 Post 28 June 2013 Last Updated on 28 June 2013 By Editor Hits: 8335 By David Cromwell and David Edwards Reports of Washington's anger directed at surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden indicate a basic truth about power. 'Remember, any state, any state, has a primary enemy: its own population.' Anyone who steps out of line, especially if they defy authority's attempts to apprehend them, risks severe punishment.

Snowden was denounced by Dick Cheney, the warmongering former US vice-president, as a 'traitor' and a possible spy for China. Given the source of such accusations – largely senior officials in the current and previous US administrations - rational observers will be unimpressed. 'The state of surveillance and perpetual war are one and the same. Solomon issues a warning: 'The central issue is our dire shortage of democracy. Washington and its allies, sold to the public by the media as 'the international community', are well aware of the stakes. The editorial added: Europe must condemn Erdogan, but without hubris or illusions | Timothy Garton Ash.

Another year, another country, another square: after Wenceslas in Prague, Independence in Kiev, Azadi in Tehran, Red in Moscow and Tahrir in Cairo, there's now Taksim in Istanbul. Each square reaches the world through totemic photographic images. In Istanbul it is that young woman in a red dress – Ceyda Sungur, a young academic at the city's technical university – being sprayed with tear gas at close quarters by a riot policeman. The national symbols, flags and colours change – green in Iran, orange in Kiev, red in Istanbul – but the essence of the image is the same. A young, modern, urban, probably secular young woman faces the armed, helmeted, faceless man.

He represents the forces of reaction, authoritarianism and domination, whether in the service of the ayatollahs, President Vladimir Putin, or this would-be sultan, the Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. We see this iconography of peaceful protest, and we know at once where we stand. Yet we have to strike a balance. Review: The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki. The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki295pp, Little, Brown, £16.99 Who wants to be average? To be average is to be commonplace and unexceptional.

It conjures up the mediocre or banal - the consensus, the mass, the run of the mill. But here's the rub: in the right circumstances, the average is the best place to be. That insight is at the heart of James Surowiecki's intelligent book. The answer to that question reveals the limitations on the wisdom of crowds. Given enough encouragement, a large group may even be convinced that black is indeed white. Even so, Surowiecki's book is an antidote to the notion that a camel is a horse designed by committee. Surowiecki recognises the weaknesses of groups in situations where they would be expected to show their mettle. The Catholic church was wise to adopt the office of "Advocatus Diaboli" when considering its candidates for sainthood.

From Trafalgar to Taksim, the politics of the square puts the wind up power | Simon Jenkins. Illustration by Belle Mellor Why does power hate a city square? A square fields no army, commands no votes, has nowhere to go. It is just a space. Yet it is space that invites occupation, an occupation hostile to power. Hence Turkey's president felt obliged yesterday to "recapture" Taksim Square in Istanbul. It had become an alternative seat of legitimacy, a place of defiance, an ugly gesture at his majesty. It took tanks, guns, gas and bulldozers, but cleared it had to be.

Squares are civic holy places. A square in a capital city is a congress of the wild, a drawing room of the dispossessed. Tell that to the broken heads of Tahrir, Tunis or Tripoli, or the victors of the streets of Orange Kiev and Milosevic's Belgrade. Ask the rulers of any unsteady regime, such as Iran, Pakistan, Burma, Sri Lanka, Morocco, Bahrain. Nothing in cyberspace was going to stop Erdoğan and his developer cronies flattening Taksim Square for condos and shopping malls on Gezi Park.


A rightwing insurrection is usurping our democracy | George Monbiot.