Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, September 30, 2016

A useful concept

Sometimes an idea is tied to one place or one political culture. But there are times when the concept can be applied to many examples. That might explain why the phrase "Potemkin Village" appeared half a dozen times in the news this month.

Back in they day when Catherine the Great ruled Russia, her country seized Crimea (sound familiar?). In 1783, Catherine toured the newly acquired territory to see what it was like. She traveled on a riverboat and her general (and lover) Grigory Potemkin was in charge of arrangements.

The usual tale goes that along the banks of the river, General Potemkin had soldiers and peasants build false front houses and shops in front of peasant villages (to hide them). They recruited (rounded up?) local peasants and their livestock to populate the fake villages and welcome the Tsarina as she floated down the river. Therefore, she'd come away from her inspection with an image of a prosperous Crimea and an adoring population.

Even though the stories were exaggerated by General Potemkin's rivals and enemies, his name became solidly associated with deceptive presentations of desired, but unachieved accomplishments.

I have often suggested that the Soviet Union and later Russia were, in many ways, large scale Potemkin Villages. Claiming communism and democracy while achieving neither. These days academics and journalists label many things as Potemkin Villages. It's a useful concept. Watch for it.

How would you use this idea to describe China? Iran? Nigeria? Mexico? Russia? the UK?

War President Obama Sends More U.S. Troops to Iraq
President Obama ordered another 615 U.S. troops to Iraq Wednesday as the Middle Eastern nation’s army prepares to take Mosul back from ISIS…

The troop level is inadequate for the task, says Sebastian Gorka, the vice president and professor of Strategy and Irregular Warfare at the Institute of World Politics...

Right now, the U.S. talks of a coalition of 62 nations. Gorka flatly denied that.

"There is no 62-nation coalition," said Gorka. "Obama's coalition is a Potemkin village."…


No, Donald, the Fed Isn’t Manipulating the Economy for Political Gain
n Monday night’s debate, Donald Trump reiterated a charge he’s been making on the campaign trail: that Janet Yellen, the chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve, is manipulating the economy to make it look better than it is, to help get Hillary Clinton elected. Whether you agree with the Fed’s policies or not, it’s an accusation that is way off base and, when you think it through, doesn’t actually make much sense…

So the Fed is keeping interest rates low because the U.S. economy — faced with a weak global economy — isn’t as strong as we might expect or desire and is walking on fragile ground. One can debate whether ultra-low rates really make things better or worse, but that’s the rationale for its actions (or inaction). There is no Potemkin village here, just caution not to make a shaky situation worse. And if the Fed’s low rates actually are making a sluggish economy “better” than it otherwise would be — as Trump charges — well, that’s the whole point of monetary policy. No?…


NCTA Scraps Annual Cable Trade Show After 65 Years
It’s the end of an era for cable TV: The industry’s biggest trade group… said today that it will stop sponsoring INTX, the annual gathering that was a must-go for industry moguls for decades when it was known as the Cable Show.

“We are now exploring new and better ways to tell our story, to gather our community, to advance our growth and present our vision of the future,” CEO Michael Powell, the former FCC chairman, said in a blog post about the 65-year-old confab…

[T]he annual gathering began to look like a Potemkin village as cable matured and consolidated. With major decisions in the hands of two industry giants — Comcast and Charter — and most operators looking to cut channels, there was no need for a showcase for new programmers and technology makers who want a foothold in the business…


Colin Powell and the Potemkin election system
… The disastrous results of Colin Powell’s lies live on today as does the media’s white washing Powell’s legacy. The media has gleefully repeated Powell’s attacks on #Donald Trump calling him “a national disgrace” and an “international pariah.” America’s Potemkin village elections, constructed to give the appearance of democracy while protecting the politicians, will go on. The only uncertainty is whether the American people will continue to buy the lie.


How to Profit From the Folly of Donald Trump's Best Friend Vladimir Putin
… Russia is like a Potemkin village that's mostly facade with hollow substance, while Putin's macho posturing masks the inherent weaknesses of his misrule. Below, we show you how to profit from the day of reckoning. The best way to make money is to be a contrarian and see the story behind the story. And the Russian story right now is rotten to the core…


In Debate, Trump Showed America He’s a Sputtering, Incoherent Egomaniac
Perhaps if Trump ran publicly held companies, ones that are responsible to stockholders and relatively independent boards of directors, he would not have evolved into the enormously self-satisfied specimen he is. But for the most part, Trump holds all the power in his business empire – if indeed it is an empire, not a Potemkin village



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Just The Facts! 2nd edition is a concise guide to concepts, terminology, and examples that will appear on May's exam.


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The Comparative Government and Politics Review Checklist.



Two pages summarizing the course requirements to help you review and study for the final and for the big exam in May. . It contains a description of comparative methods, a list of commonly used theories, a list of vital concepts, thumbnail descriptions of the AP6, and a description of the AP exam format. $2.00. Order HERE.

What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original version and v2.0 are available to help curriculum planning.











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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Setting the parameters

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei seems to be marking one edge to the allowable political spectrum. It will be interesting to see how he defines the other allowable edge.

Ahmadinejad 'advised not to seek re-election in Iran'
Ayatollah Khamenei
Iran's Supreme Leader has warned former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against running in next year's presidential election, state media report…

Mr Ahmadinejad, a vocal critic of the West, served two terms as president between 2005 and 2013.

He has not announced plans to run again but his recent speeches have prompted speculation of a comeback…

Commentators have suggested that he would give Iran's conservatives their best chance of regaining power from the more moderate Mr Rouhani…

Ayatollah Khamenei's opposition to a bid by Mr Ahmadinejad, if confirmed, would eliminate him as a candidate, correspondents say…

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Just The Facts! 2nd edition is a concise guide to concepts, terminology, and examples that will appear on May's exam.


Just The Facts! is available. Order HERE.

Amazon's customers gave this book a 5-star rating.







The Comparative Government and Politics Review Checklist.



Two pages summarizing the course requirements to help you review and study for the final and for the big exam in May. . It contains a description of comparative methods, a list of commonly used theories, a list of vital concepts, thumbnail descriptions of the AP6, and a description of the AP exam format. $2.00. Order HERE.

What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original version and v2.0 are available to help curriculum planning.











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Monday, September 26, 2016

Labour stays the course

A younger generation taking control from the Blairite Labour leaders

Jeremy Corbyn Is Re-elected as Leader of Britain’s Labour Party
Jeremy Corbyn strengthened his grip on Britain’s opposition Labour Party on Saturday, beating back a challenge to his leadership by members of Parliament with increased support from the party’s rank and file…

Mr. Corbyn, a 67-year-old hard-left politician, won 61.8 percent of the more than 500,000 votes cast, up from the 59.5 percent he won a year ago, when his victory shocked and divided the party…

The result tightened Mr. Corbyn’s grip on the party and isolated many of its members of Parliament from a growing membership that is younger and more left-leaning…

The party has almost tripled its membership to more than 500,000, making it the largest political party in Western Europe, Mr. Corbyn said. But opinion polls regularly indicate that if an election were held tomorrow, Labour under Mr. Corbyn would suffer a historic defeat in the country as a whole.

There are concerns among the rebels in Parliament that Mr. Corbyn and his team will move against them. Electoral districts are to undergo boundary changes as the House of Commons shrinks from 650 members to 600, and Mr. Corbyn’s opponents fear the leadership team will use those changes to replace them with other candidates…

Mr. Corbyn and his allies see Labour as a socialist movement whose purpose is to change society. But most Labour members of Parliament, who regard Mr. Corbyn as a man of the old-fashioned, hard-left fringe, believe the best way to effect change is to win power in elections, which in Britain has meant moving toward the center, not farther to the left…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed. Use the search box to look for country names or concept labels attached to each entry.

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Just The Facts! 2nd edition is a concise guide to concepts, terminology, and examples that will appear on May's exam.


Just The Facts! is available. Order HERE.

Amazon's customers gave this book a 5-star rating.







The Comparative Government and Politics Review Checklist.



Two pages summarizing the course requirements to help you review and study for the final and for the big exam in May. . It contains a description of comparative methods, a list of commonly used theories, a list of vital concepts, thumbnail descriptions of the AP6, and a description of the AP exam format. $2.00. Order HERE.

What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original version and v2.0 are available to help curriculum planning.











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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Oh, yes, it's an aristocracy (sort of)

There is a second house of the UK's Parliament. It used to be a place for the top of the aristocracy to exercise its rights to govern. Today, not so much. Why is it still around?

In Britain’s Parliament, a Crowded House Bursting With Lords
How many lords are enough?

[T]he House of Lords, the essentially consultative second chamber of the British Parliament, now has 810.

That’s twice as many Lords as can fit in their elegant hall in Westminster, with its red leather benches. And, perhaps uniquely, the Lords even outnumber their counterparts in the House of Commons, which is now fixed at 650 members and soon will have just 600…
Chamber of the House of Lords

Twenty-six of the Lords are bishops (Britain has a state religion, after all), and 91 are peers with hereditary noble titles. The vast majority are life peers, with seats and titles they cannot pass to descendants.

There’s the rub, and a source of increasing popular contempt for the Lords. Some life peers have been honored for noble acts and charitable works, but many were elevated for banal political reasons: for making money or donating it, often to the governing party (known as cash for honors), or simply for serving in government a long time.

Efforts to overhaul the House of Lords, reduce its membership, transform it into a senate or abolish it altogether, have produced more noise than fundamental change…

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Just The Facts! 2nd edition is a concise guide to concepts, terminology, and examples that will appear on May's exam.


Just The Facts! is available. Order HERE.

Amazon's customers gave this book a 5-star rating.







The Comparative Government and Politics Review Checklist.



Two pages summarizing the course requirements to help you review and study for the final and for the big exam in May. . It contains a description of comparative methods, a list of commonly used theories, a list of vital concepts, thumbnail descriptions of the AP6, and a description of the AP exam format. $2.00. Order HERE.

What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original version and v2.0 are available to help curriculum planning.











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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Comparing transparency

The idea of transparency is being tossed around in the American presidential campaign, but the concept is important in comparative politics, too. Transparency contributes to legitimacy, honesty, and rule of law.

The Economist's reporting on the resignation of Mexico's finance minister, Luis Videgaray, mentioned the well-respected NGO Transparency International. That makes this a good time to review the concept and the organization.

Political transparency measures the degree to which the discussions and actions of governments and actors in governments are open to public scrutiny. Most often the assumption is that more transparency makes for more honest and responsible government and politics.

The cost of an unwanted guest
TO SAY things have been going badly for Enrique Peña Nieto… would be an understatement. Recent embarrassments include… an ill-judged rendezvous with Donald Trump. On September 7th Mr Peña tried to put the unpleasantness behind him by accepting the resignation of the finance minister, Luis Videgaray, his most important deputy, who had hopes of becoming president in 2018.

Most observers assume Mr Videgaray took the fall for suggesting Mr Trump’s visit in the first place…

Mr Peña’s use of a scapegoat does not answer the most pressing questions he faces: how to avoid irrelevance in the final two years of his term and prepare his Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) for the next election…. The country’s corruption rating, as measured by the researchers of Transparency International, is stubbornly and embarrassingly poor for a democracy whose economy is the 15th largest in the world…


Corruption PerceptionsIndex 2015
  • Country   raw score   (international rank)
  • Denmark 91 (most transparent)
  • United Kingdom 81 (10th most transparent)
  • United States 76 (16th most transparent)
  • China 37 (83rd most transparent)
  • Mexico 35 (95th most transparent)
  • Russia 29 (119th most transparent)
  • Iran 27 (130th most transparent)
  • Nigeria 26 (136th most transparent)
  • Somalia 8 (167th most transparent or, in other words, least transparent)

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Just The Facts! 2nd edition is a concise guide to concepts, terminology, and examples that will appear on May's exam.


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Amazon's customers gave this book a 5-star rating.







The Comparative Government and Politics Review Checklist.



Two pages summarizing the course requirements to help you review and study for the final and for the big exam in May. . It contains a description of comparative methods, a list of commonly used theories, a list of vital concepts, thumbnail descriptions of the AP6, and a description of the AP exam format. $2.00. Order HERE.

What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original version and v2.0 are available to help curriculum planning.











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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Voter fraud in China?

When elections are symbolic events meant to look like democratic procedures, why (and how) could voter fraud take place? (Hint: remember guanxi?)

An Unlikely Crime in One-Party China: Election Fraud
China’s legislature has expelled 45 of its members in a vote-buying scandal that has snared a prominent businessman who is active in donating to American universities, foundations and political campaigns.

Some of the lawmakers whose dismissals were announced on Tuesday, all from the economically struggling northeastern province of Liaoning, had bribed their way into the National People’s Congress by buying votes, according to the official news agency Xinhua.

The nearly 3,000 members of the congress, which meets as a full body for less than two weeks each March, ratify laws and government programs, usually with little drama. Members are mostly voted in by lower-ranking organizations, including provincial congresses…
NPC session, 2016

Often derided as a rubber-stamp legislature, the congress and its companion advisory body have in recent years become a club for some of China’s wealthiest executives, keen to rub elbows with government officials. Holding such high office also brings prestige and, much like peerage or knighthood in Britain, is seen as a marker of status in the Communist Party-dominated establishment. In China, it is sometimes known as “wearing the red hat.”

“People within the system can trade interests,” Zhang Ming, a political scientist at Renmin University in Beijing, said by telephone. “Whoever gets elected will have a pass to do so.”…

“For reasons that don’t make sense to outsiders given the ‘rubber stamp’ nature of the N.P.C., membership in any honorary body is coveted by people who see it as a mark of social status, something to add to their resumes,” said Suzanne Pepper, a scholar based in Hong Kong who studies Chinese elections.

Many of the expelled delegates are executives of private businesses or leaders of state-owned companies, rather than career politicians and military officers — who are also well represented on the body…

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Just The Facts! 2nd edition is a concise guide to concepts, terminology, and examples that will appear on May's exam.


Just The Facts! is available. Order HERE.

Amazon's customers gave this book a 5-star rating.







The Comparative Government and Politics Review Checklist.



Two pages summarizing the course requirements to help you review and study for the final and for the big exam in May. . It contains a description of comparative methods, a list of commonly used theories, a list of vital concepts, thumbnail descriptions of the AP6, and a description of the AP exam format. $2.00. Order HERE.

What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original version and v2.0 are available to help curriculum planning.











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Monday, September 19, 2016

No surprises in Russia

The Duma elections are over. The only footnotes you need to add to your textbook revolve around United Russia's power to amend the constitution on its own and the details about the use of party lists.

Pro-Kremlin Party Wins Big Majority in Russian Parliament
The Kremlin's power-base party took an overwhelming victory in national parliament elections, winning three-quarters of the seats, the head of the Central Elections Commission reported Monday.

With 93 percent of the ballots from Sunday's vote counted, the United Russia party was on track to get 343 of the 450 seats in the State Duma…

It's an immense gain for the party that already held a majority in the previous parliament -- soaring by more than 100 seats. The party now has enough to amend the constitution on its own…

In contrast to the two previous elections, only half the seats in this election were chosen by national party list; the others were contested by single-seat districts.

Turnout was distinctly lower than in the last Duma election in 2011…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed. Use the search box to look for country names or concept labels attached to each entry.

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Just The Facts! 2nd edition is a concise guide to concepts, terminology, and examples that will appear on May's exam.


Just The Facts! is available. Order HERE.

Amazon's customers gave this book a 5-star rating.







The Comparative Government and Politics Review Checklist.



Two pages summarizing the course requirements to help you review and study for the final and for the big exam in May. . It contains a description of comparative methods, a list of commonly used theories, a list of vital concepts, thumbnail descriptions of the AP6, and a description of the AP exam format. $2.00. Order HERE.

What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original version and v2.0 are available to help curriculum planning.











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The more things change, the more they remain the same.

I recall introducing the study of Russia with a comment that went something like this: "Before the revolution there was an absolute ruler who governed a country that preserved authentic civilization and absolute truth. After the revolution, Russia was governed by an absolute ruler who preserved authentic civilization and absolute truth. The rulers, the civilization, and the truths were different, but that hardly seemed to matter.

Since Putin made the Russian Orthodox Church part of the ruling coalition, the custodians of pre-revolutionary absolute truth are back in the power elite.

Expanding Russian Influence, Faith Combines With Firepower
New Parisian dome
The golden main dome of a new Russian Orthodox cathedral now under construction on the banks of the Seine shimmers in the sun, towering over a Paris neighborhood studded with government buildings and foreign embassies…

The prime location, secured by the Russian state after years of lobbying by the Kremlin, is so close to so many snoop-worthy places that when Moscow first proposed a $100 million “spiritual and cultural center” there, France’s security services fretted that Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, a former K.G.B. officer, might have more than just religious outreach in mind…

Putin
Mr. Putin has… mobilized faith to expand the country’s reach and influence… the Russian Orthodox Church helps project Russia as the natural ally of all those who pine for a more secure, illiberal world free from the tradition-crushing rush of globalization, multiculturalism and women’s and gay rights.

“The church has become an instrument of the Russian state. It is used to extend and legitimize the interests of the Kremlin,” said Sergei Chapnin, who is the former editor of the official journal of the Moscow Patriarchate…

Andrei Eliseev, the Nice cathedral’s Moscow-educated and multilingual senior priest, denied accusations by his foes in the émigré community that he works for Russia’s security agency…

But he said he nonetheless has a duty to serve the state, explaining that the Russian church has effectively been a government department since Peter the Great took control of religion in the early 18th century.

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed. Use the search box to look for country names or concept labels attached to each entry.

What You Need to Know 7th edition is ready to help.


Order the book HERE
Amazon's customers gave this book a 4-star rating.








Just The Facts! 2nd edition is a concise guide to concepts, terminology, and examples that will appear on May's exam.


Just The Facts! is available. Order HERE.

Amazon's customers gave this book a 5-star rating.







The Comparative Government and Politics Review Checklist.



Two pages summarizing the course requirements to help you review and study for the final and for the big exam in May. . It contains a description of comparative methods, a list of commonly used theories, a list of vital concepts, thumbnail descriptions of the AP6, and a description of the AP exam format. $2.00. Order HERE.

What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original version and v2.0 are available to help curriculum planning.











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