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back to article Ecuador: Snowden is Russia's problem

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden looks increasingly stranded in Russia, with Ecuador's president reportedly saying that the country is not considering an asylum request from him. President Rafael Correa has told The Guardian that Snowden is Russia's responsibility, and he would need to reach Ecuadorian territory for the country …

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15 countries eh?

"thanks for the heads up snowden but we US aid money so get off our land"

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A good summary

That would seem to be the long and the short of the situation. He doesn't seem to be as such in a position to claim Political Asylum and frankly he doesn't seem to know enough that any country would consider 'trumping up' Asylum refugee status on his behalf.

I guess his best bet now is to submit himself to the American Justice system ... last time I heard it was a little fairer than say Ecuador or indeed Russia.

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I doubt it's anything to do with US aid. They've given asylum to Assange already. And look how that's turned out...

They've got an untidy bloke blocking up their sofa, and he's just persuaded one of their consuls to do something stupid, and possibly embarrassing, while the ambassador was away. Diplomats are supposed to be publicity-shy unless directly instructed otherwise.

Anyway, the rules of asylum are that you're supposed to claim it in the first country you come to, when you get there. Or you can claim it in an embassy beforehand and then go off there. But I'm not sure that second one is of much practical use, because if you're fleeing from the country you're in - what's to stop them intercepting you on your way to the border, between embassy and target country? As usual with international law, it tends towards the impractical, and appears to be written to assume that all countries are good and honest global citizens. Given what a cynical bunch diplomats, lawyers and politicians are I've never quite understood how that happens...

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Facepalm

You don't understand how that happens? It's quite easy - those international laws tend to be written by those same cynical bunch...

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Assange was a mistake, one they cannot easily back out of. Assange turned up in an embassy. Ambassadors probably have a better remit to make decisions. I believe that ambassador was recalled (and probably given a kicking for accepting the request).

With snowdon he ISNT on the doorstep so they can politely decline or at least give him enough hoops to jump through to make it all but impossible anyway.

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Billy no mates

Sucks to be him. Also goes to show how unimportant the lady bothering Ecuadorean couch surfer is.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Billy no mates

Also goes to show how unimportant the lady bothering Ecuadorean couch surfer is.

Though as the Guardian article says that the Ecuadorian Presidents said the the travel papers that Snowden used were issued "in error" by the Consul in London (or, I think he says, "by the London Consul and Assange"). Sounds to me like that Ecuadorian Consul is starting to succumb from Stockholm Syndrome.

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Re: Billy no mates

Sounds to me like that Ecuadorian Consul is starting to succumb from Stockholm Syndrome

That matches with Assange's "I don't want to go to Stockholm" Syndrome...

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All the world is a stage

Select whichever answer you like best:

1. Ecuador, having raised its profile in the media 1000 times, has had its turn in the limelight and now enough is enough, the PR budget is running out, tourism is up and there's no more need for further stunts.

2. US and Ecuador agree that this particular show should contain a twist in which The Man From El Monte he say: "no" and the Snowden saga continues in a different direction, perhaps including an exceptional "pardon" from President Obama and return to the motherland.

3. US leans on Ecuador, and says "you've already got that other major criminal whom we are desperate to lay hands on; don't give this one asylum or else we'll do something nasty to you (withhold aid - do they get aid? - or bomb them).

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Re: All the world is a stage

plus the US probably dont really care about Assange; they have Manning so face is saved. Snowden on the other hand will be pursued, Obama himself has mentioned him (I dont remember Assange being mentioned by any other senior US spokesperson). That alone speaks volumes.

Snowden will be used as a bargaining tool by whatever country gets him.

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Re: All the world is a stage

Snowden is an American and so *has* to be seen to be being pursued as he's consider a 'traitor' and the US government can't just leave it alone. Chasing Assange, who's an Australian, is a much more fraught with international repercussions, and so if it's being done at all (which I doubt) then it will be being done so very very subtly.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: All the world is a stage

The problem is that Snowden *has* committed a crime, and is now wanted to answer for that. Quite simply, he is a fugitive from justice and there is no way to sugarcoat that.

Even the whistleblower defence cannot stand without acknowledging first that he disclosed secrets he signed up to keep quiet about, which is an act I have yet to find a government declare any enthusiasm for.

This creates a situation analogous to Assange insofar that Assange too is a fugitive, using the asylum seeker process to evade justice. It sets bad precedents.

The only way to resolve what's going to happen to either is to let the legal processes take place as they should for normal people - both Assange and Snowden are not special, however much they like to pretend they are.

In the case of Assange it's quite possible that the Swedes just give him a fine and send him on his way, thus punting him into the obscurity he fears (unless he passed on an STD that the girls' lawyer is keeping quiet about, in which case it's still obscurity, but for a different reason). If I was Assange I'd made sure I'd have no allergies (other than to condoms) because it only takes getting very ill to create a desire to swap the couch for a hospital bed. I'd be very careful with what I eat and drink - it would be a simple way out for Ecuador.

In the case of Snowden, well, if you're that close to the fire you shouldn't play with it. His revelations have put some more meat on suspicions, but as far as I can tell, politicians are just riding the media wave - anyone who claims to be surprised by what Snowden revealed is only declaring themselves either liars or hopelessly naive. He revealed national secrets, and it's not like it's hard to find out what the punishment for that is - he knew the risk. He is naive if he thinks another nation will help, because it would be helping a fugitive.

What puzzles me is that Snowden obviously planned the data theft, but doesn't seem to have invested the same amount of planning in his escape. What exactly did Snowden think was going to happen?

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Re: All the world is a stage

"What puzzles me is that Snowden obviously planned the data theft, but doesn't seem to have invested the same amount of planning in his escape."

That's because he thought first of doing his civic duty, and only second (if at all) about his personal safety.

Such decency and courage is bound to puzzle many people nowadays. The Romans would have understood.

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Re: All the world is a stage

Assange didn't embarrass The Big 0 personally, Snowden did. Snowden should have paid a bit more attention to the IRS TEA Party scandal before honking of the new Leroy Brown.

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Re: What exactly did Snowden think was going to happen?

He expected he'd be hailed as hero and welcomed back to a ticker tape parade. There was no thought involved. Typical Progressive behavior pattern.

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Re: The Romans would have understood.

The Romans would have put him to the sword without a second thought.

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Anonymous Coward

Well

Ecuador have the right idea, "You need to be on our soil for us to consider asylum" I like it. We should do the same thing with immigrants.

"So you want to be an immigrant"

First give them the task of getting to the country, then make them run an obstacle course of death, those who survive have earnt the right to stay in the UK.

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WTF?

Re: Well

What has immigration have to do with asylum? How do you become an immigrant to a country you never set foot in?

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Re: Well

A fair portion of asylum seekers come here first as illegal immigrants. They then apply for asylum once they're in the country, and since he currently has no state wouldn't that make him an illegal immigrant anywhere he goes?

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Re: Well

He isn't stateless, his passport has been cancelled.

(Which, from his point of view, is probably worse.)

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Re: Well

ah, the old 1066 method... do they still get to run the country if they win?

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Re: Well

What do you think the purpose of border control is? He wont be able to get ON a plane without travel papers, no airline would let you do that because THEY get fined if they allow illegals to travel. Hence why he wants asylum before he boards a plane so that he can get travel papers.

Cuba would have done it out of spite 20 years ago, not so much these days. Russia might use him as a bargaining tool to get the US out of Syria. Iran doesnt want the US parking next door in Syria so I imagine they will simply keep quiet. Israel would love him, turn his brain inside out then send him back to U.S. Iceland would take him, then realise they have lots of clean water and no money so will have some sort of deal with the US.

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Childcatcher

Re: Well

He isn't stateless, his passport has been cancelled.

That's right. He isn't like a web page, it's just that VeriSign will not vouch for him.

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Childcatcher

Pressure

And lots of it to make the Equador President stand up and do a public 180, still, as Nixon says, 'hacker' Snowden is no big deal, we can take him or leave him etc, I'm not sure I believe him though.

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No-one wants him.

He wasn't a spook, he was a contractor. He knows nothing about the "how" of the security services, all he did was download the results. If he was stupid enough to travel with his data stores, then the Russians will (probably) already have everything he took, and will just want rid of him.

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Does Russia have a timekeeping department now

Any changes to the worlds clocks and watches must now be referred to the foreign minitry.

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Quod erat expectandum

Snowden's daftest move so far: Letting himself be "helped" by WikiLeaks.

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Re: Quod erat expectandum

I agree. Assange is nearly universally disliked and no government can possibly approve of what Wikileaks does. Now Assange can add two more victims to the list of people harmed by his ego, Snowden and the guy from Ecuador who granted the initial travel document. He got to be in the news again though so he's probably quite pleased with himself.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: universally disliked

better tell those 26% of australian voters who under polling say they would vote for him and his party. Oh hang on, we don't want facts involved do we

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FAIL

Re: universally disliked

I think you should go back and look at the details of that poll. I believe, among other things, you'll find that saying '25% of Australians' is about a 95% overstatement.

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Anonymous Coward

It seems Putin has offered (publicly, at least) terms

If Snowden values any semblance of liberty, perhaps it's time to shut up and take what might be the best offer on the table? It's hard, I know, and I think he's done a good thing, but publicly fucking with the Americans is going to have consequences.

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About face

I wonder how many calls from the US state dept it took to get Ecuador to 'see sense', or whether its was more down to having milked the positive press enough without having to actually piss the US off.

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Re: calls from the US state dept it took

I doubt it was from the US government. Those would have been more likely to encourage them to take him, no matter what leverage they thought they were attempting to apply. More likely an EU country that realized it had as much to fear as the US. UK would be at the top of the list except everybody knows they're at the top of the list so it would be stupid of them to do so. Although it could have been Russia. Snowden is mostly used up and now they need to dispose of the body without being seen to be disposing of the body.

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Equador, the pillar of freedom

- no more, apparently, despite all their posturing and "we won't be told by the USA what to do", etc.

Likewise other, apparently more advanced practitioners of "freedom of expression". UK, obviously, because. Island - suddenly not that keen. Germany, despite the indignity of being classed by the USA as "3rd tier partner" - democracy ist gut, aber $$$ is besser. And the French? I'm sure they' would love to piss off America, but not THAT much. Maybe show a middle finger from afar but to come close and kick it in the balls... non!

Likewise Poland, which, one might think, should remember a thing or two about the value of free speech but is obsessing with trying to be "a friend of America" - at any cost.

Nobody wants to fuck with the big bully, fair enough. But at least they should be honest about it, cause all this dancing by the politicos is just embarrassing to watch.

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Re: Equador, the pillar of freedom

You don't understand. No-one wants him because it's too much hassle. He's trouble, and you never know what he'll do. And whatever it is, it'll generate automatic publicity. Plus there's all those forms to fill out. Paperwork's a bitch you know...

In the case of the genuine democracies it's even worse. I'm not sure he's got a valid case for asylum. He broke US laws and they're seeking to arrest and try him. That's not political persecution, that's legal due process. So the German government could stick two fingers up to the US, and then have a legal minefield to walk though, then find they have to extradite him anyway, on instruction from their own courts. Or maybe not, as it could be regarded as a political crime, and therefore exempt from extradition treaties.

Remember, internet wish-fulfilment is not the same as actual, real life.

As for Russia, they can do what they want, as their courts will do what they're told. But it's one thing to make mischief and get free publicity, while embarrassing an adversary. It's another to actually do something, and create a diplomatic incident. Putin wants trade with the US, and diplomatic deals with them too. There's no point gratuitously pissing them off, unless there's something in it for him. As an ex-KGB officer, he's unlikely to be shocked at the idea of spying...

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Re: Equador, the pillar of freedom

Paperwork's never been a bitch for either true and "true" democracies when it suited them to show to the world what a pillar of freedom and democracy they are, against that vile regime of (enter any country name but the True Democracies).

This is my whole point - they don't want to fuck with the US of A - let them say it, instead of coming up with laughable excuses. I want to hear it loud and clear: "We value our trade links and good relationship with USA much, much more, than giving shelter to somebody, who confirmed that USA spy on us".

there's one more aspect: the reaction of the world is a clear go-ahead to the US: we can spy on them and even if we slip, like with this Snowden, they will do fuck about it. Plus a strong message to wanna whistle-blowers: you've got nowhere to hide.

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Re: Equador, the pillar of freedom

No-one can do anything about the US spying on them. Because they're busy spying on the US right back. Plus there's no point trying to stop spying, it's like trying to stop gravity.

Governments spy. They always have, and probably always will. There'll be a short period of public embarrassment, then everyone will go back to business-as-usual.

As for paperwork being a hassle, it really is. One of the things about being a proper democracy is the rule of law. That means the courts can overrule the government. So you can get lumbered with people like Abu Qatada, because the courts won't let you kick his sorry arse out the door due to his human rights.

So if you take in someone like Snowden, the courts might rule that he isn't a genuine asylum claimant and make you send him back home. Which could be embarrassing if you've just been using him to polish up your credentials with his hero-worshippers online.

Look at Assange. Ecuador took him in for some cheap PR. In the hopes that the UK would do a deal. But the UK can't do a deal, as our courts have ruled he's got to go to Sweden. Remember our government doesn't get to directly tell the police what to do. Of course, hints could be dropped, and he could be easily sneaked out of the country if the Met were willing to cooperate. But it would be a career-ending screw-up if (when) it leaked out, and possibly a criminal conspiracy. Even if they wanted to, it would be too much hassle and risk to ignore the law.

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Re: Equador, the pillar of freedom

Not to mention of course that St. Julian is now a criminal under UK law as he's broken his bail terms, so he'd also need to extricate himself from having provably, and very publicly, broken the law.

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Re: Equador, the pillar of freedom

"In the case of the genuine democracies it's even worse."

What genuine democracies? If you are aware of any, please tell us where they are to be found.

Before you start, consider that an explicit goal of the US constitution was to prevent the nation from becoming a democracy, or anything of the kind. It was to be a "republic" - a conveniently undefined concept, but with a pleasantly libertarian ring to it.

In that respect, nothing has changed since 1789. The USA has never been a democracy, and never will be.

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Re: Equador, the pillar of freedom

I'm not sure if you're really missing my point, or deliberately trying to deflect it - the issue of legality is purely an excuse - and a petty one too. I'm absolutely convinced, had the bloke been a Russian, and holed up in some EU airport, or US airport, having just run from his Moscow masters, there'd be absolutely no problem with granting him asylum in a matter of hours in any of those "democracies", or "true democracies". Even if there would have been legal reasons to send him back, or at least, have it looked at, from a legal standpoint. Unless, obviously, we'd want to use him as a bargaining chip against Russia or China, and all necessary rules and laws would be broken again, as and when needed.

But now all those champions of democracy feign indignation at the disclosure that their "ally" spies on them, and they scramble for some desperate excuses not to shelter the bloke who exposed it. I know they don't give a shit about morality, etc. But I wish they were a bit less... ridiculous, trying to pretend how they're oh so awfully sorry, but some God-imposed small print make it, alas, utterly impossible, to provide a home for this unfortunate person. I want to hear them say, politely, and in public: "Fuck you, Snowden, if you're so naive to think that we really care about those values we say we care about. You're too much hassle, Snowden. In fact, you'd do everybody a great favour, if you shot yourself in the head now, ideally in full view of the cameras, so there's no silly talk of "falling off the staircase". And if some bloggers blame some Russian remote control gun / melting bullet combination, or something - even better. Then we get back to the normal wheeling and dealing, and the public gets to see a couple of movies in a year or two".

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“conveniently undefined concept”

Tom, where exactly is it made explicit that a goal of the US constitution was to prevent the nation from becoming a democracy? The late 18th century understanding of democracy was demonstrated primarily (if not only) by the city-states of ancient Greece; given the size of the US in 1789, and the communication technologies of that age, democracy as it was understood then would have been an impossibility, rendering such an explicit goal entirely unnecessary.

Regarding the “conveniently undefined concept” of what a republic was then, I’d suggest rereading Federalist Paper #39, written by James Madison:

If we resort for a criterion to the different principles on which different forms of government are established, we may define a republic to be, or at least may bestow that name on, a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure, for a limited period, or during good behavior.

How well that “conveniently undefined concept” of the late 18th century might match an early 21st century concept of democracy is left as an exercise to the reader.

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Re: Equador, the pillar of freedom

Tom Welsh,

First define democracy?

The US founding fathers were referring back to Athens. The Athenians had drastically changed own their democracy after the disaster that was the Sicilian expedition, loss of the war with Sparta etc.

Actually, before defining democracy, define demos. If you were Athenian that was male citizens only, no immigrants, no women and no slaves. You can rule a medium sized city with reference to an assembly of all your voters, bit harder to do it with a country. Speed of communications is a problem for a start, which is why Americans still don't get to elect their presidents directly.

However, I think it's pretty obvious what I meant by genuine democracies. And you were being deliberately obtuse. And yes, I am making a value judgement about the validity of different systems, just because I can. Russia does not have a free media, free electoral commission or a free judiciary. Therefore it doesn't have free-and-fair elections, therefore it's not a democracy. However Putin is probably the leader most Russians want, even after the last election (which was more imperfect than usual). So I wouldn't call Russia a dictatorship - just not a genuine democracy. Maybe an oligarchy? It's a word they use themselves...

While imperfect, the US, UK, Germany, France etc. do have free-and-fair elections. Therefore they're genuine democracies.

However, as you correctly point out, none of them have an assembly of all free adult male citizens meeting in the town square to decide on policy.

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Re: Equador, the pillar of freedom

I'm not sure if you're really missing my point, or deliberately trying to deflect it - the issue of legality is purely an excuse - and a petty one too. I'm absolutely convinced, had the bloke been a Russian, and holed up in some EU airport, or US airport, having just run from his Moscow masters, there'd be absolutely no problem with granting him asylum in a matter of hours in any of those "democracies", or "true democracies".

Anonymouse,

Britain has given several Russian citizens political asylum. It's a government that persecutes legitimate and peaceful opposition leaders and journalists. We would struggle to extradite anyone to Russia, even if we wanted to, because they also don't have a free-and-fair judiciary. 98% of people charged with a crime in Russia are convicted. Apparently you have to bribe the police before you're brought back to the police station. Once the process of filling in the charge sheet is begun, you're almost certain to be found guilty.

Thus paperwork is a problem. If we had a Russian citizen here we wanted to send back, the rule of law probably wouldn't allow it. You'd have to resort to illegal actions, such as rendition. And look how much trouble that caused.

So I'm neither missing, nor deliberately deflecting your point. Our governments should be, and mostly are, governed by the rule of law. If they give shelter to someone, and they have an extradition treaty with the US, they would have to justify that action in court. Now they could probably get out of it, by citing political factors and therefore block extradition. But that depends on their own political set-up.

However, they probably don't want to deliberately abuse their own legal due-process. But they probably do want to get cheap publicity. And as much as they don't like being spied on, they also know their own governments legitimately employ spies, and probably don't want to encourage a world where all spies can blab, then run somewhere safe and protected.

Also, it's not totally clear to me that Snowden does deserve sympathy and protection. Well he does deserve sympathy, because he's in a godawful mess, and you'd have to have a heart of stone not to feel sorry for him. But he's got a perfectly valid reason to claim whistle-blower status if the NSA really were running a big program to spy on US citizens. But revealing the NSA spying on foreign diplomats, which is their fucking job - is pretty close to treason. If he didn't approve of spying, why did he get a job working for the world's largest signals intelligence gathering organisation (even if by proxy)?

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Re: Equador, the pillar of freedom

"If he didn't approve of spying, why did he get a job working for the world's largest signals intelligence gathering organisation (even if by proxy)?"

perhaps, because he was so naive - or misinformed - that he actually believed that the NSA's job (and their proxies') is to protect the USA against those nasty terrorists who blow up US soldiers in Afghanistan and innocent Americans in Boston, rather than to spy on the whole world - at the same time pumping out the propaganda that "we're holy, we're righteous, but those nasty regimes of North Korea and Iran, and, wink-wink, Russia, and, obviously, the Chinese..."

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Re: Equador, the pillar of freedom

They're spies. They spy. The clue is in the name. You would have an argument if all he'd revealed had been PRISM and spying on US citizens. That's clearly a scandal that needs attention. However he's also revealed stuff about spying on foreigners. Well that's what the NSA is for!

Of course if they really are supposed to be helping to spot extremists like the guys in Boston, then they are supposed to be spying on Americans as well. But I'm pretty sure they're not, and that job is down to the FBI.

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Re: “conveniently undefined concept”

"Tom, where exactly is it made explicit that a goal of the US constitution was to prevent the nation from becoming a democracy?"

Pretty much throughout the history of the period. This is not a convenient forum in which to write a book, so I'll just provide a few links. As a starting point, take a look at:

http://www.libertyunderfire.org/2010/06/the-founding-fathers-rejected-democracy/

http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/democracy-versus-liberty

http://www.redstate.com/dhorowitz3/2011/09/16/we-the-people-a-constituional-republic-not-a-democracy/

Ironically, although the USA has never become anything remotely like a democracy, Jefferson's fear of "elective despotism" has been completely fulfilled. I can't think of a better description of recent US presidents than "elected despots". After four years, the voters get to elect a new despot.

"Regarding the “conveniently undefined concept” of what a republic was then, I’d suggest rereading Federalist Paper #39, written by James Madison..."

Thank you for the assumption that I had already read that paper. However, the passage you cite seems to me an utter lack of definition dressed up to look like a definition. "[A] government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people..." What does it mean to say that a government derives its power indirectly from the people? Nothing at all that I can see. It's just an impressive-sounding form of words.

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Re: Equador, the pillar of freedom

"First define democracy?"

That's straightforward. The word means "people power", "power of the people", or perhaps "rule by the people". If it means anything practical - which is arguable - it means that the people as a whole have power over their government. Not just power to alternate between two more or less equivalent groups of politicians every few years, but to get laws and policies that they actually want.

"However, I think it's pretty obvious what I meant by genuine democracies."

I disagree. Indeed, you yourself have already given quite powerful arguments for believing that, in a modern nation, there cannot exist anything remotely resembling a real democracy. If so, the first step is to admit that fact openly.

"While imperfect, the US, UK, Germany, France etc. do have free-and-fair elections. Therefore they're genuine democracies."

OK, now we know what you consider to be the definition of a genuine democracy. Under the circumstances, I don't think it's worth our while continuing this discussion.

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Re: “conveniently undefined concept”

Tom, thanks for the links that you’ve provided. In the Liberty Under Fire article, Dr. Pease’s evidence relies solely upon the Founding Fathers’ use of the word republic instead of democracy. This occurred not because democracy was associated with a “share the wealth” philosophy in the late 18th century; this happened because democracy then was associated with governments of a city-state scale. His claim that Benjamin Franklin was the source of the “two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch” definition of democracy, as well as his use of a purported quote from the non-existent The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic, does not reflect well upon his research skills.

For the article from the Cato Institute, Professor Hanke is correct that the Founding Fathers were aware of the evils that can accompany a tyranny of the majority. However, in the Founders’ view, that tyranny of the majority was exemplified by the contemporary British Parliament — Wherever the supreme power of legislation has resided, has been supposed to reside also a full power to change the form of the government. The Founders did not view the British Parliament of their time to be an example of a democracy. Like Dr. Pease, Professor Hanke is comparing the Founders’ views to modern definitions rather than to contemporary definitions.

On the RedState article, Mr. Horowitz interprets democracy as being synonymous with Jefferson’s “elective despotism”. This also is an instance of modern definitions being used instead of contemporary definitions. Mr. Horowitz correctly notes John Witherspoon’s quote on “pure democracy”, though — Witherspoon was speaking in regards to city-state scale governments, just as Madison did in Federalist Paper #10. Here’s another extract from #10:

The two great points of difference between a democracy and a republic are: first, the delegation of the government, in the latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest; secondly, the greater number of citizens, and greater sphere of country, over which the latter may be extended.

Again, the Founding Fathers did not make explicit that a goal of the US constitution was to prevent the nation from becoming a democracy. The US in 1789 was too big to be a democracy, in the late 18th century sense of the word, given the available communication technologies of the period.

Regarding Madison’s definition of republic in Federalist Paper #39, my understanding of an example of “powers derived indirectly from the people” would be the single vote of a province by its set of representatives in the Staten-Generaal of the Dutch Republic.

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Re: Equador, the pillar of freedom

"However, as you correctly point out, none of them have an assembly of all free adult male citizens meeting in the town square to decide on policy."

Oddly enough, we currently have a real-life experiment in town square democracy going on under our very eyes - in Egypt. The huge numbers of ordinary people who jammed into Tahrir Square and other parts of central Cairo were directly responsible - and quite quickly, in political terms - for the downfall of President Hosni Mubarak. Now many of the same people have come back for a repeat performance, seeking to control the policies of President Morsi, who was elected to replaced Mubarak.

Those Egyptians look very naive to Westerners. They actually believe that they ought to be able to elect a president on the strength of his promises, and then remove him from office if (in their opinion) he has not delivered on those promises! Any citizen of Britain, the USA, or any other modern "democracy" could set them right about that. As our presidents and prime ministers are "elective dictators", once in office they serve out their term and do whatever they wish, quite regardless of platforms and promises. And if the citizens don't like that, it's just too bad.

However the Egyptians, apparently not yet understanding that "democracy" is just a social convention like that of the people who ignored the Emperor's nakedness, are actually trying to get their elected ruler to carry out the policies they want! I suppose that they will learn, soon enough, that the system just doesn't work that way.

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Re: “conveniently undefined concept”

Thanks for your well-informed and instructive points, Irony Deficient. I suppose we may have to agree to disagree.

In any case, I think we have drifted away from my original point, which is that - however you define "democracy" - there are no real working democracies in the world today. It's very possible that there cannot be, because there is no practical way of organizing a government "of the people, by the people, for the people", even with modern technology. And that's before even broaching the question of whether the people can be trusted to make important decisions at all.

The words "democracy" and "republic" come apart in your hands when you try to unpick their "true" meaning. And that makes it clear that those who use them so frequently do so only as "hurrah" words that raise enthusiasm and sound goo, but mean nothing at all.

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