Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, September 19, 2014

Scotland votes NO

(AP Comparative Government teachers breathe a sigh of relief.)

Well, and many other people celebrate while others sob. Can Scotland pull itself back together after such a close vote?  

Scottish referendum: Scotland votes 'No' to independence
Scotland has voted to stay in the United Kingdom after voters decisively rejected independence.

With the results in from all 32 council areas, the "No" side won with 2,001,926 votes over 1,617,989 for "Yes"…

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Historic political culture

History and political culture have a lot to do with how governments function and policies that leaders adopt. When the two coincide, the results can be powerful. How much of the operation and policies of the Russian government can be explained by history and political culture? What about the role of leadership? Does economics offer alternative explanations?

Ukraine crisis: Is the noose around Putin tightening?
The Kremlin is a very different seat of power from 10 Downing Street, the Elysee Palace or the Washington White House.

The word Kremlin means "fortress".

For hundreds of years, that is exactly what it has been, with high walls, towers and a moat; besieged by foreign invaders, from the Polish army in the early 17th Century, to Napoleon 200 years later.

Today there are no foreign armies knocking at the gates.

Yet once again the Kremlin feels threatened…

"Putin sincerely believes that 'Orange Revolutions' in Ukraine were instigated by the US State Department and that Kiev's Association Agreement with the European Union is an EU conspiracy to take dominance of Ukraine," says political analyst Andrei Piontkovsky…

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Details on referendum results

Scottish referendum results won't be available until Friday morning in Edinburgh. Scotland is 5 hours ahead of EDT, so if you're up at 3:00AM in Boston or midnight in Seattle, look for the first results.

How will the Scottish referendum result be decided?
Polling stations close later this evening with the result expected Friday morning. The BBC's Jeremy Vine explains how the votes will be counted.
[See video at BBC]


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A failing state?

Charlotte Alfred, writing in the Huffington Post, offers this summary of demonstrations of Nigeria's capacities and incapacities.

Remember #BringBackOurGirls? This Is What Has Happened In The 5 Months Since
On the night of April 14, 2014, hundreds of schoolgirls at the Chibok boarding school in northeastern Nigeria awoke to the sound of gunfire… Their abduction sparked global outrage and a huge campaign calling for their rescue, partly propelled by the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.

Sunday marks five months since the girls were kidnapped. Here's what has happened since.

Not one student has been rescued

Even though they were reportedly located months ago: In May, a Nigerian military official claimed he knew where the girls were being held. A month later, U.S. surveillance planes also spotted a group that officials believed to be the girls.

Other countries have made little progress

Meanwhile, the girls' hometown is still in danger

And Boko Haram violence rages on

Nigeria’s military has buckled under pressure...

And been accused of grave human rights abuses

While the country worries about its image problem: Nigeria's government paid a Washington public relations firm more than $1.2 million to change the media narrative surrounding the schoolgirls' abduction…

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The last arguments

Everybody gets one last chance to change voters' minds.

Scottish independence: Campaigns seize on Scotland powers pledge
Both sides in the Scottish independence referendum debate have seized on a pledge by the three main Westminster parties to devolve more powers.

The pledge, signed by David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg, also promises equitable sharing of resources and preserving the Barnett funding formula.

The "Yes" campaign described it as an "insult" to voters and asked why it had taken so long to offer.

Better Together said it was "a vision around which Scotland can unite"…

The pledge signed by the Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem leaders appears on the front of the Daily Record newspaper.

The first part of the agreement promises "extensive new powers" for the Scottish Parliament…

The pledges were first outlined by the former prime minister, Gordon Brown, and endorsed by the three main unionist parties in Scotland.

On the penultimate day of campaigning ahead of Thursday's referendum, the "Yes" side is focusing on jobs and the NHS, while the "No" side is promising change and a "better Britain"…

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Nation, state, country

This op-ed essay about the vote for Scottish independence is worth the time it takes to sort out the analysis (that includes references to Thomas Hobbes).

BTW, does writer Neil Irwin properly use the terms nation, state, country, government, and regime?

Why Does Scotland Want Independence? It’s Culture vs. Economics
It’s been a good three centuries, but now Scotland may want out of the United Kingdom.

The stakes are enormous for Scotland, and quite high for the rest of Britain. But the debate over Scottish independence also sheds important light on how debates over the nature of the state that are as old as Hobbes and Locke apply in a modern world of instant communication and cryptocurrency.

Alex Salmond, Scottish leader
The latest polling on the referendum, to be held Sept. 18, points to a narrow edge for Scots who wish to pull out of the state that they have been part of since 1707 and go it as a nation of their own. Previous polls, by contrast, had given the edge to those who wish for Scotland to remain part of Britain. Both betting markets and forecasting groups are now putting the odds that Scotland will pull away and form its own state at something like 30 percent.

What’s all the more remarkable about this possible secession is that major, specific grievances over public policy between Scotland and the rest of Britain are hard to identify…

Many Scots feel as if they have more to gain from governing alongside people who look like them and talk like them than they have to lose from no longer being part of a bigger, more powerful nation…

One could point out that Britain as it exists today is the very model of a liberal democracy, that Scots are amply represented in Parliament, and that they have a great deal of control over day-to-day governance within their borders. The government has offered to expand those rights of local control over taxes and public administration if Scotland sticks with Britain. But it may not be enough…

In the 18th century, it was the creation of what is now the United Kingdom out of England, Scotland and Wales (and, presently, Northern Ireland). In the 19th century, it was the expansion of the United States to span a continent and the centralization of smaller states into what are now the nations of Germany and Italy. In the 20th century, it was the creation of the European Union, in which people from Finland to Portugal share a common market and common currency…

Among democracies, the march has been toward greater scale and reach, at the cost of less distinct national identity. There have been flare-ups of resentment in these large democracies… But none have come as close to getting their wish as the Scots will in just over a week…

If Scotland chooses to go independent, it will shed the advantages that come from being part of a relatively large global power (Britain’s population: about 64 million. Scotland’s population: about 5 million) for the chance to be governed by people with whom they share a deeper cultural affinity.

Paradoxically, pro-independence Scots have argued that they will recapture some of the advantages of size by joining the European Union. It seems slightly bonkers for Scots to get so frustrated about ceding power to bureaucrats in London and turn immediately to bureaucrats in Brussels, but there it is…

The Scottish referendum isn’t just about whether a few million Scots will govern themselves. It is a fight over the world of multicultural modernity that makes today’s global economy possible, but also leaves many people with a deep hunger for the sense of national identity it obliterates.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

A license for your TV?

People in the US don't think twice about getting a license for their cars. But for a television? The debate in the UK over television licenses (which fund the BBC) is ongoing.

Ministers back TV licence fee powers change
Ministers have backed plans that would give them powers to make non-payment of the TV licence fee a civil rather than criminal offence, the BBC understands…

A TV licence, which is required if a user watches or records live broadcasts on any device in the UK, costs £145.50 per year.

Those who refuse to pay face a £1,000 fine and a criminal record, as well as the prospect of jail if fines are not paid…

Culture Secretary Maria Miller has previously said "decriminalisation of the licence fee should be on the table" during the charter review.

With TV licensing cases accounting for 180,000 - or more than one in 10 - criminal prosecutions in 2012, decriminalisation could ease pressure on the courts system, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has said.

Of those prosecuted in 2012, about 155,000 people were convicted and fined for non-payment.

Ministers to review enforcement of TV licence payment
Ministers are to review how payment of the TV licence fee is enforced amid concerns about the number of people appearing in court for evasion.

Culture Secretary Sajid Javid will say more than 10% of all cases heard by magistrates involve TV licences and question whether the system is working…

[Culture Secretary Sajid Javid], in a speech to the Royal Television Society… will say the question of how the BBC enforces payment of the licence fee - currently £145.50 a year for a colour TV - must be considered now.

"In 2012/13, almost 200,000 people ended up in court accused of not buying a TV licence," he will say. "More than 50 were sent to prison… "

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Panic time in London?

The latest poll shows Scottish independence likely to approved by voters. Leaders of all major parties in the UK are headed to Scotland to campaign against independence.

How would the regime in the UK change with Scottish independence? How would government change? How would sovereignty be affected? And the state?

Scottish independence: UK party leaders in No vote trip to Scotland
The leaders of the main UK parties are heading to Scotland to campaign against independence, ahead of the referendum.

Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband will abandon their weekly Prime Minister's Questions clash to head north on Wednesday.

It came as the Scottish pro-Union party leaders announced their backing for more powers for Scotland.

First Minister Alex Salmond said the campaign to keep the Union was now in "absolute panic".

Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will also be campaigning in Scotland, ahead of the 18 September referendum, although the three leaders will not travel or appear together.

In a joint statement they said: "There is a lot that divides us - but there's one thing on which we agree passionately: the United Kingdom is better together."…

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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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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Reconsidering basics

In the light of recent Islamist terrorism (2014), analyst Fareed Zakaria wrote, in the The Washington Post, an op-ed column wondering about his perceptions of terrorism in 2001.

Zakaria
Below is a key paragraph. Use that or the whole essay and determine whether Zakaria is using terminology the same way your textbook uses it. Terms like country, state, civil society, nation, national identities, and others.

Does his analysis of his thinking make sense to you? Why? If not, what's missing or inaccurate?

Why they still hate us, 13 years later
What did I miss in that essay 13 years ago? The fragility of these countries. I didn’t recognize that if the dictatorships faltered, the state could collapse, and that beneath the state there was no civil society — nor, in fact, a real nation. Once chaos reigned across the Middle East, people reached not for their national identities — Iraqi, Syrian — but for much older ones: Shiite, Sunni, Kurd and Arab.

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










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











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