Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Big deal or "Big" deal?

For participants, these meetings are big deals. Are they big deals for citizens and those of us outside of China?

Commentary: China's annual political sessions to unleash growth momentum for global economy
NPC in session
China's upcoming two annual political sessions will once again focus on economic policies, which is widely expected to inject new vigor and vitality into the economic giant and unleash growth momentum for the the global economy. A series of reform agenda are highly anticipated at this year's sessions of lawmakers with the National People's Congress (NPC) and political advisors with the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), including reforms of local government financing, taxation, pricing, State-owned enterprises and the household registration system…
China Focus: A-Z of "two sessions" talking points
CPPCC in session
The plenary sessions of the National People's Congress (NPC) and the National Committee of the Chinese People' s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), popularly known as the "two sessions", will kick off this week. What will be the big talking points? Xinhua has compiled a list of 26 hot topics.

A|Anti-corruption: The Chinese government has adopted a zero-tolerance approach in fighting corruption since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in November 2012.

In 2015, China's top anti-graft watchdog said it will net more "tigers" and "flies" -- corrupt government officials at both higher and lower levels -- and combat graft in state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

But how to build a long-term mechanism to supervise the exercise of official power requires suggestions from NPC deputies and CPPCC members.

B|Breakup of Monopolies: Although China has eased market access in many industries and started SOE reforms in a bid to mobilize private investment and break monopolies, there is still a lot to do to achieve fair competition. Experts believe the private sector will reap more fruit this year…

[You can probably guess the organizing system for the following 24 "hot topics."]
In China’s Legislature, the Rich Are More Than Represented
Lawmakers in much of the world are often accused of being in the pockets of billionaires. But there’s a difference in China. Here, the lawmakers are the billionaires.

Among the 1,271 richest Chinese people tracked by the Shanghai-based Hurun Report, a record 203, or more than one in seven, are delegates to the nation’s Parliament or its advisory body, which will convene for their yearly joint session this week in Beijing…

American lawmakers are poor by comparison. According to figures provided by the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based group that tracks money in American politics, the richest person in any of the United States government’s three branches, Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican, would rank as only the 166th richest member at the meeting of China’s National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress which opens on Wednesday…

Still, while the National People’s Congress is a rubber stamp for the ruling Communist Party, lacking the power of the United States Congress or the British Parliament, the concentration of wealth in its ranks reflects the growing influence of the rich in Chinese politics.

That is no accident. Starting more than a decade ago, the Communist Party, founded to empower workers and peasants and quash the capitalist class, began to welcome wealthy members to broaden its appeal and buttress its authority…

A seat on one of the two bodies is highly desirable, not because the positions are powerful, but because being a delegate provides access to the highest echelons of the party and the government. It is also a clear sign to potential business partners and rivals of political clout.

Membership in either body can also provide wealthy Chinese with protection from government actions that could hurt their businesses…

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Monday, March 02, 2015

BBC briefings on Nigeria

Some of these articles might be a bit out of date, but I don't know anywhere besides the BBC that you'll find such a collection about Nigeria and the upcoming elections.

  • Profiles of the major candidates
  • description of how the election is supposed to work
  • Q&A about the delay
  • analysis of the connections between religion and politics
  • an analysis of Boko Haram
  • a profile of the country


Nigeria Decides



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Sunday, March 01, 2015

Fears of the powerful?

There are obviously layers of politics in Russia of which I am ignorant. I'm also ignorant of the motivations of fanatical assassins who act on their own. (See Sarajevo in 1914.)

It's hard for me to imagine any one person being such a great threat to power structure in Russia. Then again, I would probably have said the same thing about Khomeini and the Iranian power structure back in 1978.

Watch for further developments.

Fear Envelops Russia After Killing of Putin Critic Boris Nemtsov
Nemtsov
On Saturday, it was still not clear who was responsible for killing Mr. Nemtsov. Some critics of the Kremlin accused the security services of responsibility, while others floated the idea of rogue Russian nationalists on the loose in Moscow…

As supporters of Mr. Nemtsov laid flowers on the sidewalk where he was shot and killed late Friday, a shiver of fear moved through the political opposition in Moscow…

“Another terrible page has been turned in our history,” Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, the exiled former political prisoner, wrote in a statement about the killing.

“For more than a year now, the television screens have been flooded with pure hate for us,” he wrote of the opposition to Mr. Putin…

This comes as analysts of Russian politics say the Kremlin could be worried about, and intent on discouraging, further defections to the opposition, given reported high-level schisms between hard-liners and liberals over military and economic policy. The government is already under strain from Russia’s unacknowledged involvement in the war in Ukraine and runaway inflation in an economic crisis…

Anatoly Chubais, a co-founder with Mr. Nemtsov of the Union of Right Forces political party, scorned the investigators’ claim. “Today, we had a statement that the liberal opposition organized the killing,” he said. “Before this, they wrote that the liberals created the economic crisis. In this country, we have created demand for anger and hate.”…

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Friday, February 27, 2015

Breaking news from the UK

Sometimes current events offer insight into government and politics.

British Tory MP to leave Parliament after lobbying sting
Conservative Party lawmaker Malcolm Rifkind quit Tuesday as head of the committee overseeing Britain’s intelligence services and announced his retirement from Parliament, after being caught in a hidden-camera sting appearing to discuss swapping political influence for money.

Rifkind, a former foreign minister and one of his party’s most senior lawmakers, called the allegations against him “contemptible.” But said he did not want the vital work of the Intelligence and Security Committee to be “distracted or affected by controversy as to my personal position.”…

Rifkind was caught in a sting along with former Labour Party foreign secretary Jack Straw, who was already planning to leave Parliament in May…

The return of corruption allegations is unwelcome for British politicians during a close-fought election campaign. The reputation of Parliament has been tarnished by previous cash-for-access scandals and by revelations several years ago that lawmakers had claimed taxpayer-funded expenses for second homes and items including porn movies, horse manure and an ornamental duck house.

UKIP’s support slips in polls before Britain’s May election
Support for the anti-EU UK Independence Party has slipped less than three months before a national election, following a slew of negative publicity, denting its hopes of winning more seats in parliament, an opinion poll showed on Tuesday.

UKIP won European elections in Britain last May, has regularly been getting 15 per cent in opinion polls, and has even spoken of holding the balance of power after the election.

But a Comres poll for the Daily Mail newspaper put the party… at 13 per cent…

An Ashcroft poll on Monday put UKIP at just 11 per cent…

A YouGov poll in the Sun newspaper showed more than half of voters now want the Conservatives – in a ruling coalition with the Liberal Democrats – and the opposition Labour Party to rule out a post-election pact with UKIP…

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Nigerian campaign speech in London

Presidential candidate Buhari gave a major campaign speech in London a couple days ago.

Why in London? I can think of two good reasons: first of all there's a large and influential group of Nigerian voters in London and, secondly, the international reporting on the speech would be greater than if it were given in Abuja or Lagos  (and will probably be seen by other international groups of Nigerians).

Stanley Lorenzo sent me (thank you) the link to the transcript published in Nigeria's The Sun.

Buhari’s Chatham House speech (full transcript)
Now, let me quickly turn to Nigeria. As you all know, Nigeria’s fourth republic is in its 16th year and this general election will be the fifth in a row. This is a major sign of progress for us, given that our first republic lasted five years and three months, the second republic ended after four years and two months and the third republic was a still-birth. However, longevity is not the only reason why everyone is so interested in this election.

The major difference this time around is that for the very first time since transition to civil rule in 1999, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is facing its stiffest opposition so far from our party the All Progressives Congress (APC). We once had about 50 political parties, but with no real competition. Now Nigeria is transitioning from a dominant party system to a competitive electoral polity, which is a major marker on the road to democratic consolidation. As you know, peaceful alternation of power through competitive elections have happened in Ghana, Senegal, Malawi and Mauritius in recent times. The prospects of democratic consolidation in Africa will be further brightened when that eventually happens in Nigeria…

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A little protest goes a long way (in the media)

Echoing the 2009 protests in Iran, the conservative judiciary (all clerics) and the Twitterverse (probably not clerics) take sides again.

Iranians protest Khatami media blackout online
Khatami
Some Iranians on social media have launched the hashtag “We will be Khatami’s media” in Persian after Tehran banned media from mentioning name of former President Mohammed Khatami, who was known as a reformer…

On Monday, Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje’i, the spokesman for Iran’s judiciary said Tehran’s justice department had issued a ruling that prohibits any mentions of Khatami in the Iranian media.

“There is an order that bans the media from publishing photos or reports about this person,” Mohseni-Eje’i said, referring to Khatami without naming him, according to the semi-official Isna news agency.

Iran’s judicial system is dominated by conservatives and works separately from President Hassan Rowhani’s government, leaving the leader incapable of influencing its decisions…

A Facebook page, which garnered 26,810 likes… was also created.

The page was filled with Khatami’s pictures and the hashtag “we will be Khatamai’s media.”

Khatami, who became president starting 1997 till 2005, was regarded as Iran’s first reformist president. His campaign was on the rule of law, democracy and the inclusion of all Iranians in the political decision-making process…

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

New ideas from the UK

In most political cultures, there are no ideological restrictions on personal beliefs. But some things just don't go over well in the public sphere.

BTW, David Tredinnick attended Eton College, earned a degree from St. John's College, Oxford, and an MBA at the University of Cape Town. He has been an MP since 1987.

Astrology could help take pressure off NHS doctors, claims Conservative MP
A Conservative MP has claimed that astrology could have “a role to play in healthcare”.

David Tredinnick said astrology, along with complementary medicine, could take pressure off NHS doctors, but acknowledged that any attempt to spend taxpayers’ money on consulting the stars would cause “a huge row”.

He criticised the BBC and TV scientist Professor Brian Cox for taking a “dismissive” approach to astrology, and accused opponents of being “racially prejudiced”.

The MP for Bosworth, in Leicestershire, who is a Capricorn and in 2010 paid back £755 he had claimed in expenses for software that used astrology to diagnose medical conditions, told Astrological Journal: “I do believe that astrology and complementary medicine would help take the huge pressure off doctors…

Opposition to astrology is driven by “superstition, ignorance and prejudice”, he said. “It tends to be based on superstition, with scientists reacting emotionally, which is always a great irony.

“They are also ignorant, because they never study the subject and just say that it is all to do with what appears in the newspapers, which it is not, and they are deeply prejudiced, and racially prejudiced, which is troubling.”

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

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Quick Russian history lesson

Another discovery by John Unruh-Friesen is this excellent three and a half minute summary of the 1991 coup attempt in Russia.

 


I think it's worth reminding students that 2 years after Yeltsin led the defense of the Russian "White House," troops loyal to Yeltsin attacked the same building when the legislature tried to take control of the government.

There is no narration in this film clip, but the video of army tanks firing on the headquarters of the Duma is dramatic.

Under what circumstances can you imagine the PLA firing on the Great Hall of the People? Or the British Army firing on Westminster?


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Fun with politics

John Unruh-Friesen, who teaches in Minnetonka, MN, found the following bit of mocking humor from John Oliver about the Labour Party's attempt to win women's votes in the upcoming election. (Think stress relief.)




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Campaign funding, another case study

Here are the numbers from the UK. How do they and the financing methods compare to those in other countries?

Political donations: Conservatives received most in final quarter of 2014
The Conservatives received the most in donations in the final quarter of 2014, according to the Electoral Commission.

The party took home £8,345,687, compared to Labour's £7,163,988.

Ed Miliband's party remained heavily-backed by trade unions, and was also supported by accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Donations to the Lib Dems totalled £3,038,500 - giving the party an annual record total - while UKIP reported £1,505,055 and the Greens £248,520…

BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins said donations were higher than normal because of the upcoming general election…

In addition to these donations, six parties accepted £3,834,816 from public funds during the final quarter of the year…

Unison [public service], Unite [industrial workers], and GMB [trade workers] unions were the top three biggest donors in the final quarter of 2014, giving more than £3.6m combined to the Labour Party…

Meanwhile, the biggest donor to the Conservatives was Michael D Gooley [founder of the UK's largest travel agency], who gave the party £500,000.

The Lib Dems reported a £400,000 donation from Max Batley, while UKIP received £394,254 from Rock Services Limited…

There have been £65.6m of donations for political parties in 2014.

The Conservatives received the most money in donations last year - £28.9m, compared to £18.7m for Labour, £8.2m for the Lib Dems, £3.8m for UKIP and £3.7m for the SNP.

Despite recent poor poll performances, the Lib Dems set a new party record, raising £1.5m more in 2014 than their previous annual record.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ah, pedagogy

Not only does Ken Halla post things about Comparative Gov Pol on his US Gov't Teachers blog, he posts things about the art and science of teaching. Here's a link the latest. Cause for thought and discussion.

Mastery Learning
[T]he doctor who helped bring my son Grant into the world had only delivered ten kids prior to us... Lawyers who can't win for their clients the first time, can appeal and law makers often have to try year after year to get their bills or amendments through. But as a father of two middle schoolers, I see how motivated students can be and how much they (my girls) want to improve their scores if they didn't do well enough the first time.

I have been transitioning... the last few years to mastery teaching.

I think mastery teaching has also been possible as I work more one on one with each of my kids than I have ever had time to do before...

The Second Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Sixth Edition of What You Need to Know is also available from the publisher.

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Limits on the EU

It's not just nationalist politics and nationalist economics that are imposing limitations on the EU. International terrorism is also threatening the vision of an open, multi-national society.

EU needs stricter border checks to disrupt terrorists, say leaders
European Union leaders have called for stricter checks on travellers entering the passport-free Schengen area, in response to last month's Paris attacks…

Schengen area
EU travellers can often avoid extensive ID checks under the Schengen agreement.

The agreement abolished internal borders, enabling passport-free movement between 26 European countries. The United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland are not involved.

Spain had suggested that the agreement might have to be amended to permit more border checks on people suspected of having terrorist links…

Countries would "proceed without delay to systematic and co-ordinated checks'' on anyone whose movements are flagged as suspicious by databases that use unspecified "common risk indicators", the statement said.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz endorsed tighter controls, but said there were red lines he and other lawmakers would refuse to cross.

He warned that rashly curtailing individual rights in the name of boosting public safety would play into the terrorists' hands by discrediting Western-style democracy…

The leaders also called for police and judicial authorities to step up information sharing to prevent arms trafficking and money laundering and to effectively freeze assets used for financing terrorism…

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

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










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