Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Apparent oxymoron

How does a regime promote loyalty and patriotism?

China bans its own national anthem
China’s national anthem can no longer be performed at weddings, funerals, balls or other non-political functions and should only be performed at certain dignified events, state media said on Friday.

The rule is to “standardise proper etiquette for the national anthem, which reflects national independence and liberation, a prosperous, strong country and the affluence of the people”, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The March of the Volunteers may, however, be played at the start of important celebrations or public political gatherings, formal diplomatic occasions or significant international gatherings, it added, citing a Communist party statement.

The anthem can also be performed when Chinese athletes win medals and “at arenas where national dignity should be fought for and safeguarded”…

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mapping Nigeria's war

Thanks again to Ken Halla for catching a valuable article I missed.

There are a couple maps here that dramatically show the territiory, the towns, the roads, and the battlefields of the Boko Haram's Islamic war on Nigeria.

Boko Haram: The Other Islamic State
While much of the world has been focused on the rise of the Islamic State, another proto-Islamic state has been waging a campaign of terror while dreaming of a caliphate in Nigeria. Since the public execution of Boko Haram's founder in 2009 by Nigerian security forces, a hard-line militant, Abubakar Shekau, has led this makeshift army of Islamist fighters through years of escalating attacks on government personnel, religious leaders, young students, crowded mosques and marketplaces.

Borno and neighboring states

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Another analysis Scotland's independence movement

Mark Porubcansky, Foreign Editor of the Los Angeles Times, offers this bit of analysis.

How Scotland's independence movement is changing the UK
This isn’t exactly the solid, stable old Britain that Americans love.

After throwing a scare into the country’s political elite, Scots voted in September against independence. So a political union that predates the American revolution will stay in place — at least a while longer.

But by seriously considering breaking up the country, Scotland has helped launch a debate that may fundamentally change how America’s closest ally functions.

Think of the issue as a British version of the U.S. struggle to define where Washington’s power ends and state authority takes over…

Many Scots have felt increasingly at odds with the UK’s national government for decades. While “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher was popular enough to become Britain’s longest-serving prime minister of the 20th century, her policies were widely detested in Scotland. And Scots see little more than a continuation of them in the quarter of a century since she left office…

In late November, the so-called Smith Commission return its report on Scottish autonomy. Among its recommendations: that Scots be given the power to set income tax rates and retain the money raised by it; that they be able to decide whether to extend the right to vote to 16-year-olds; and that the Scottish parliament be free to create new benefits.

Cameron said he was “delighted” with it. The Scottish National Party was disappointed, saying that the authority over the vast majority of revenue and spending would remain in London…

BBC political editor Nick Robinson said, “If you think today’s constitutional changes are only about Scotland, think again,” he said. “If you think they will end the debate about Scottish independence, think again. If you think they mark the end of a process of change, think again.”

Now, mayors of major cities across England said they should be given the same powers as the Scots…

The Scottish National Party's, former First Minister Alex Salmond, widely recognized as one of Britain’s wiliest politicians, resigned as the head of Scotland’s government… But he hasn’t left the scene. He stirred the pot on Sunday by announcing that he would run for a seat in parliament in London.

With his party gaining in the polls, Salmond is setting himself up to be a national power broker. Cameron’s foes in the Labor Party can’t beat him outright without a strong showing in Scotland. The Scottish National Party says it will never support the Conservatives. But it might be willing to back a Labor government, for a price. And that price would be likely to take Britain back to the future — an intensified debate over autonomy (for Scots and others, as well) and possibly another vote on Scottish independence.

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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Friday, December 12, 2014

Not as simple as supposed

Comparative textbooks regularly point out that the UK has a titled aristocracy, class differences in education and language, and a social welfare system that acts to bridge the class cleavages. Be careful about those generalizations. Reality is usually more complex.

British Noses, Firmly in the Air
Mellor
David Mellor, a former Conservative Party minister who resigned over a largely forgotten scandal in 1992, forced himself back into the headlines the other day.

A taxi driver recorded an extraordinarily vicious and elaborate outburst from Mr. Mellor, so full of snobbery and self-regard as to seem a comedy skit. “Shut up! You sweaty, stupid little git!” Mr. Mellor yelled, in a dispute over the route. “I’ve been in the cabinet, I’m an award-winning broadcaster, I’m a Queen’s Counsel! You think your experiences are anything compared to mine? You shut up for Christ’s sake.”…

Mitchell
Andrew Mitchell, a former Conservative Party whip, who last week was found by a judge to have insulted a policeman at the gates of 10 Downing Street, calling him “a pleb” in a harangue about what route to take to leave on his bicycle…

Thornberry
And all of this was combined with an ill-advised tweet late last month, by the Labour Party’s shadow attorney general, Emily Thornberry… which was considered to be sufficiently mocking and snobby about the working class as to force the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, to ask her to resign…

Snootiness, William Langley in The Telegraph, concluded, has always been with us, “but these days there is either more of it going on, or it is a lot easier to get caught.”

This is a Britain ever more unequal but uneasy about snobbery and “poshness,” where to be middle class of a certain sort (actually upper class but graciously self-deprecating) seems the ideal…

The elite, of course, do their best not to appear so, even if they dominate the country. As Toby Young warned in The Spectator magazine, “being perceived as upper class in contemporary Britain is the kiss of death, and not just in politics.”

The more unequal Britain becomes, he said, “the less we want to talk about it.” Britain is a nation of “inverted snobs,” because to claim one cares about class “is, in itself, a low-class indicator.”…

“Only in Britain,” wrote Hadley Freeman in The Guardian, “is there this kind of paralyzing myopia where a person is defined eternally by where their parents sent them to school, where snobbery and inverse snobbery clash with equal force and explode into a fiery ball of angry arguments involving such seemingly random — but actually deeply significant — things like grammar schools… "

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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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Another step downward for Zhou Yongkang

Zhou's name has appeared occasionally in this blog since 2007. (Search for Zhou in the search box to the right of the blog.) A few months ago, he was under investigation. Now, he's been expelled from the Communist Party and arrested.

China Arrests Ex-Security Chief, Zhou Yongkang, in Corruption Case
Zhou Yongkang
Zhou Yongkang, the once-feared head of China’s domestic security, has been expelled from the Communist Party and arrested, the official state news agency announced early Saturday, disclosing a barrage of charges that included bribetaking, helping family members and cronies plunder government assets, and leaking official secrets.

The announcement signaled the biggest move so far in President Xi Jinping’s two-year campaign to curb graft and malfeasance in the party hierarchy…

[T]he charges now revealed against Mr. Zhou also appear likely to alarm people, because they suggest that China’s police and other domestic security agencies were controlled by a deeply corrupt politician.

The investigators found that Mr. Zhou “exploited his position to obtain unlawful gains for multiple people, and directly or indirectly through his family took massive bribes,” the Xinhua report said.

In addition, the report said, Mr. Zhou “exploited his powers to help relatives, mistresses and friends make massive earnings through their business activities, creating massive losses for state-owned assets.”

Mr. Zhou also disclosed party and state secrets and traded favors and money for sex with multiple women, the report said…

An investigation by The New York Times documented that Mr. Zhou’s son, a sister-in-law and his son’s mother-in-law held assets worth about 1 billion renminbi, or $160 million, much of it in the oil and gas industries.

In China, criminal investigations of officials on corruption charges usually only start after party investigators have finished their inquiry. Mr. Zhou is now exceedingly unlikely to escape trial, conviction and a heavy prison sentence.

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

Looking for ideas for teaching next semester?

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











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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Transparency International and corruption

Transparency International was founded in 1993. A few individuals decided to take a stance against corruption. Now present in more than 100 countries, the movement works relentlessly to stir the world’s collective conscience and bring about change.

Every year since 1995, TI researchers have asked over 3,000 people involved in international businesses about the levels of corruption they have observed in countries around the world. The result is a Corruptions Perceptions Index. Each country is assigned a number to indicate the level of corruption observed in that country.

What does a number mean? Each year TI scores countries on how corrupt their public sectors are seen to be. The Corruption Perceptions Index sends a powerful message and governments have been forced to take notice and act.

The 2014 index was just published.


The 2014 corruption perceptions index measures the perceived levels of public sector corruption in 175 countries and territories
  • Denmark Score: 92 (rank: 1st)
  • New Zealand Score: 91 (rank 2nd)
  • UK Score: 78 (rank 14th)
  • China Score: 36 (rank 100)
  • Mexico Score 35 (rank 103rd)
  • Russia Score: 27 (rank 136th)
  • Nigeria Score: 27 (rank 136th)
  • Iran Score: 27 (rank 136th)
  • Somalia Score 8 (rank 174th)





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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Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Presidential popularity in Mexico and the USA

Pena Nieto's popularity numbers seem similar to Obama's. How do those rankings affect politics in each country?

Mexico president's approval plunges over scandals, missing students
Two years after assuming office, and as protesting Mexicans again took to the streets Monday, President Enrique Peña Nieto has the lowest approval rating of any Mexican chief executive in nearly two decades…

The survey, published Monday by the prominent Reforma newspaper, indicated Peña Nieto's popularity had fallen 11 percentage points in the last four months to an all-time low of 39%… Another poll in the newspaper El Universal showed a smaller plummet but still put the president's approval rating at 41%; it was nearly 70% when he was inaugurated.

Although opinion polls are notoriously unreliable in Mexico, the results seemed to jibe with a generalized air of anger in the country…

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










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