Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Bombing your own people

Humanitarian issues aside, another question to be answered is who will bear the blame and pay the price for this horrendous mistake. Everyone seems to be loudly proclaiming that it was a terrible accident and "not my fault."

Death Toll in Mistaken Bombing of Camp in Nigeria Climbs to 70
The number of people killed in an accidental military bombing at a Nigerian camp for displaced people has increased to 70, aid groups said on Wednesday, with at least nine of them humanitarian workers. The mistaken attack came after a military plane targeted an area crowded with people fleeing Boko Haram militants.

Medical workers were scrambling on Wednesday to assemble equipment to treat dozens of severely injured people who were still awaiting evacuation from the camp in Rann, in northeastern Nigeria…

In the wake of the bombing, human rights groups were trying to assess how the military could have mistaken such a crowded camp for Boko Haram fighters. A terrorism and counterterrorism researcher for Human Rights Watch circulated on Twitter an aerial view of the encampment dotted with tents and other structures. It is situated near a Nigerian military post…

On Tuesday, [President] Buhari said he regretted the error, and Nigerian military officials also expressed remorse, acknowledging they had targeted the wrong spot.

The governor of Borno State said friendly fire incidents have occurred in wars throughout history. “It is gratifying that nobody made any effort to hide anything or sweep things under carpet,” Gov. Kashim Shettima said…

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Does this make it official?

And if official, does the president's declaration indicate new policies or actions?

Corruption, Worst of All Nigeria's Problems - Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari… said corruption was the "very worst" of all the problems facing Nigeria.
The President said the ruling political party, All Progressives Congress, had identified three major challenges facing the nation as insecurity, poor economy, and corruption, noting that corruption was the most debilitating of all the ills.

"Nobody disputed the fact that they were the major problems of Nigeria, and we campaigned on those three planks. As a government, we believe you cannot administer a country you have not secured, so we focused on security.

"The economy is also down, therefore, we are not sparing any effort to revive and diversify it, so that our people, particularly the youths, can get jobs. The third problem, and the worst of them all, is corruption," the President declared…

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Vocabulary and concepts

Procuratorates approve arrest of 19,000 telecom fraud suspects
Chinese procuratorates at all levels in 2016 approved the arrest of 19,345 suspects involved in telecom or cyber fraud.

The information was released at a national meeting attended by chief prosecutors…

The authorities pledged to continue applying "high pressure" on those who commit telecom and cyber fraud this year…


Procuratorates?

It's important to remember that the inquisitorial legal system of China, Russia, and Mexico are not common law (adversarial) systems of many Western democracies. (The Sharia system in Iran is altogether different.)

The procuratorate is that part of the regime that is responsible for investigating violations of statute law and determining which suspects should be taken to court for final determination of guilt and sentencing. Those 19,000 telecom fraud suspects mentioned above were nearly all guilty — that's why the procuratorate took them to court.

The inquisitorial system is primarily based on Roman and Napoleonic systems. Even the Chinese legal system, which can be traced to the 19th century, is based in part on a Germanic version of the Napoleonic Code (and in part on the Russian and Soviet systems).

The common law/adversarial system most familiar to the British and Nigerians is based on legislation and the precedents of court decisions.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Leaving the EU while retaining free trade, travel, international cooperation, and…

Leaving the EU while retaining free trade, travel, international cooperation, and…

What are the British leaving?

Brexit: UK to leave single market, says Theresa May
Theresa May has said the UK "cannot possibly" remain within the European single market, as staying in it would mean "not leaving the EU at all".

But the prime minister promised to push for the "freest possible trade" with European countries and to sign new deals with others around the world…

"It should give British companies the maximum possible freedom to trade with and operate within European markets and let European businesses do the same in Britain. But I want to be clear: what I am proposing cannot mean membership of the single market."…

She delivered a message to the remaining 27 EU member states: "We will continue to be reliable partners, willing allies and close friends. We want to buy your goods, sell you ours, trade with you as freely as possible, and work with one another to make sure we are all safer, more secure and more prosperous through continued friendship."…

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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.

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A one-party state?

How many viable political parties are there in the UK? Two? Three? Four? One?

This chart from the 17 January edition of The Economist, suggests that the UK is a one-party state. What arguments would your students make in agreement or disagreement with this thesis in an FRQ? (click on the chart for a larger version)


Assessing the first six months of Theresa May



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Monday, January 16, 2017

Primer on Chinese party governance

Remember, this is all about the Communist Party. Government stuff comes later.

Xi Jinping is busy arranging a huge reshuffle
Every five years China holds a selection process that can change national policy and unseat many decision-makers. Communist Party officials tout it as evidence of a well-ordered rhythm in their country’s politics. This year it may turn out as unpredictable as America’s election in 2016.
Great Hall of the People
The people up for re-selection are the 350-odd members of the party’s Central Committee, the political elite, along with its decision-taking subsets: the Politburo, the Politburo’s Standing Committee (a sort of inner cabinet) and the army’s ruling council. The choice of new leaders will be made at a party congress—the 19th since the founding one in 1921—which is expected to be held in Beijing in October or November, and at a meeting of the newly selected Central Committee which will be held directly afterwards.

Party congresses, which are attended by more than 2,000 hand-picked delegates, and the Central Committee meetings that follow them, are little more than rubber-stamp affairs. But they are of huge symbolic importance to Chinese leaders. They matter for three reasons. First, they endorse a sweeping reshuffle of the leadership that is decided in advance during secretive horsetrading among the elite… If the coming meetings are like those earlier ones—a big if—they will give a strong clue to Mr Xi’s choice of successor and start the transition from one generation of leaders to another.

Second, congresses can amend the party’s constitution. China’s leaders like the document to give credit to their favourite ideological themes (and Mr Xi is particularly keen on ideology)…

Third, congresses are the setting for a kind of state-of-the-union speech by the party leader, reflecting an elite consensus hammered out during the circulation of numerous drafts. In the coming months, Mr Xi will be devoting most of his political energy to ensuring that his will prevails in all three of these aspects…

Preparations for the gatherings are under way. They involve a massive operation for the selection of congress delegates. On paper, this is a bottom-up exercise. Party committees down to village level are choosing people who will then choose other representatives who, by mid-summer, will make the final pick…

It may sound like a vast exercise in democratic consultation, but Mr Xi is leaving little to chance. Provincial party bosses are required to make sure that all goes to (his) plan. Over the past year, Mr Xi has appointed several new provincial leaders, all allies, who will doubtless comply…

Those chosen to attend the congress will follow orders, too, especially when it comes to casting their votes for members of the new Central Committee… The processes that lead to its selection of the party’s and army’s most senior leaders are obscure… But an account in the official media of what happened in 2007 suggests that at some point in the summer, Mr Xi will convene a secret meeting of the current Central Committee and other grandees for a straw poll to rank about 200 potential members of the new Politburo (which now has 25 members). This is called “democratic recommendation”, although those taking part will be mindful of who Mr Xi’s favourites are…

By August, when Mr Xi and his colleagues hold an annual retreat at a beach resort near Beijing, the initial lists of leaders will be ready. Probably in October, the Central Committee will hold its last meeting before the congress to approve its documents… The first meeting of the new Central Committee will take place the next day, followed immediately by the unveiling before the press of Mr Xi’s new lineup (no questions allowed, if officials stick to precedent).

The process is cumbersome and elaborate, but over the past 20 years it has produced remarkably stable transfers of power for a party previously prone to turbulent ones. This has been helped by the introduction of unwritten rules: a limit of two terms for the post of general secretary, and compulsory retirement for Politburo members if they are 68 or over at the time of a congress. Mr Xi, however, is widely believed to be impatient with these restrictions…

Until late in 2016 there was little to suggest any deviation from the informal rules. But in October Deng Maosheng, a director of the party’s Central Policy Research Office, dropped a bombshell by calling the party’s system of retirement ages “folklore”—a custom, not a regulation.

The deliberate raising of doubts about retirement ages has triggered a round of rumour and concern in Beijing that Mr Xi may be considering going further. The main focus is his own role. Mr Xi is in the middle of his assumed-to-be ten-year term. By institutional tradition, any party leader must have served at least five years in the Standing Committee before getting the top job. So if Mr Xi is to abide by the ten-year rule, his successor will be someone who joins the Standing Committee right after the coming congress.

But there is widespread speculation that Mr Xi might seek to stay on in some capacity when his term ends in 2022. He might, for instance, retire as state president (for which post there is a clear two-term limit) but continue as party general-secretary. He faces a trade-off. The more he breaks with precedent, the longer he will retain power—but the more personalised and therefore more unstable the political system itself may become. Trying to square that circle will be Mr Xi’s biggest challenge in the politicking of the year ahead.

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Friday, January 13, 2017

Politics of name calling in Iran

The New York Times analysis sees the death of Rafsanjani as a defeat for the hopes of moderates. The Al Arabiya analysis describes Rafsanjani as a stalwart conservative. Either way, his death seems to have started name calling and maneuvering for the next election. But the "Big Game" referred to in this article might be the selection of a new Supreme Leader as well as a new president.

‘Corruption’ in Iran ignites war of words between Rowhani, Larijani
A war of words, unlike any since the spread of the Iranian revolution in 1979, has erupted between Iranian President Hassan Rowhani and judiciary chief Sadeq Amoli Larijani in which each one accused the other of "corruption"…

Rowhani announced through his Twitter account his willingness to reveal the presidency accounts, calling Larijani, who is close to Supreme Leader Khamenei to show details of all accounts of the judiciary.

Rowhani wrote… on his Twitter account that “his government is ready to reveal all income and expense accounts, provided that the judicial authority does the same thing.”

This statement comes in response to Larijani’s accusation two days ago, where he accused the president of receiving financial support in the last election campaign in 2013 from Zanjani Babak, whohas been accused of stealing money up to billions of dollars.

Iranian media are split between supporters and opponents around the flaming war of words between the two, which was highlighted in local newspaper Shahrvand in which it described what is happening in the country as "the beginning of the Big Game."

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Iranian stability threatened?

Heshmat Alavi, writing for Al Arabiya offers some analysis of the effects of Rafsanjani's death.

Will Rafsanjani’s death trigger Iran regime upheaval?
The Iranian regime was dealt a significant blow as former president and senior cleric Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani died…

Known for his influential role in shaping the regime’s politics following the 1979 revolution, Rafsanjani will leave a power vacuum in his wake as he dies less than four months prior to crucial presidential elections.

During the past 38 years Rafsanjani maintained a top role in the regime’s measures of domestic crackdown, export of terrorism and extremism abroad, and pioneering Iran’s effort to obtain nuclear weapons through a clandestine program.

There is no doubt Rafsanjani was part and parcel to the religious establishment in Iran, especially considering his close ties to the regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini, who died in 1989. However, the pro-appeasement camp in the West believed him to be a “pragmatic conservative” willing to mend fences with the outside world, especially the US.

While Rafsanjani’s power had waned considerably in recent years, his last post was head of the Expediency Council, a body assigned to apparently resolve conflicts between the regime’s parliament (Majlis) and the Guardian Council. The latter is an ultra-conservative entity with close links to Khamenei, known mainly for vetting all candidates based on their loyalty to the establishment before any so-called elections…

Parallel to his political endeavors, Rafsanjani also used his position to carve himself and his family an economic empire from the country’s institutions and natural resources in the past decades…

“One brother headed the country’s largest copper mine; another took control of the state-owned TV network; a brother-in-law became governor of Kerman province, while a cousin runs an outfit that dominates Iran’s $400 million pistachio export business; a nephew and one of Rafsanjani’s sons took key positions in the Ministry of Oil; another son heads the Tehran Metro construction project (an estimated $700 million spent so far),” states a 2003 Forbes analysis.

The report also alludes to the billions cached in Swiss and Luxembourg bank accounts by the Rafsanjanis. Despite portraying himself as an adequate broker to the West, Rafsanjani was on par with his “hardline” counterparts in suppressing dissidents…

He also played a presiding role in the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners…

Rafsanjani has through four decades of mullahs’ rule in Iran played the role of the regime’s No. 2 figure and a balancing element, always securing the regime’s higher interests. His death will significantly weaken the mullahs’ regime in its entirety and will trigger major upheavals across the regime’s hierarchy.

If past is any indication, the mullahs will most likely resort to further violence and the export of terrorism and extremism to prevent this newest crisis from spiraling out of control…

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Rafsanjani and Iranian politics

Thomas Erdbrink, the New York Times reporter in Iran offered this analysis of the political meaning to the death of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Look for changes in politics leading up to the next presidential election and the possible selection of a new supreme leader.

Death of Iran’s Rafsanjani Removes Influential Voice Against Hard-Liners
Rafsanjani
With the death of Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani… Iran’s political factions knew immediately that any space by reformers to maneuver had just significantly decreased.

Change had come, and it did not favor those seeking to turn Iran into a less revolutionary country with more tolerance and outreach to the West — especially the United States.

Mr. Rafsanjani, a former president who helped found the Islamic republic, had been the one man too large to be sidelined by conservative hard-liners. Now he was suddenly gone… and with no one influential enough to fill his shoes…

Mr. Rafsanjani said things others would not dare to say, all agreed, and his voice had at least created some tolerance for debates…

“It is a very powerful reminder that Iran is at the beginning of a major leadership transition that will play a very psychological role in Iran’s politics,” said Vali R. Nasr, a Middle East scholar who is dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies…

Two of Mr. Rafsanjani’s most important protégés — Hassan Rouhani, the current president, and Mohammad Khatami, a former president — both owe their political careers to him. But Mr. Rouhani, up for re-election this year, is fighting for his political life. Mr. Khatami, who has been sidelined by conservative adversaries for years, is now even weaker…

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Rating media biases

I doubt we'd get unanimity about these ratings, but I think the following are generally good. Students should get used to evaluating the biases of sources and this list is a good beginning. Perhaps you could assign students to evaluate the ratings.

Media Bias/Fact Check
Media Bias/Fact Check (MBFC News) is an independent online media outlet. MBFC News is dedicated to educating the public on media bias and deceptive news practices.

MBFC News’ aim is to inspire action and a rejection of overtly biased media. We want to return to an era of straight forward news reporting.

Funding for MBFC News comes from site advertising, individual donors, and the pockets of our bias checkers.

MBFC News follows a strict methodology for determining the biases of sources…

The sources that are evaluated are sorted into eight categories:
  • Left Bias
  • Left-Center Bias
  • Least Biased
  • Right-Center Bias
  • Right Bias
  • Pro-Science
  • Conspiracy-Pseudoscience
  • Satire/Fake News


The first five on the "Left Bias" list are Addicting Info, Advocate, All That’s Fab, Alternet, and Amandla.

The first five on the "Left-Center Bias" are ABC News, Al Jazeera, Al Monitor, Alan Guttmacher Institute, and Alaska Dispatch News.

The first five on the "Least Biased" list are ABC News Australia, AFP (Agence France Presse), Ahram Online, Al Arabiya, and Al Majalla.

The first five on the "Right-Center Bias" list are Against Crony Capitalism, American Action Forum, American Council on Science and Health, American Foreign Policy Council, and Arab News.

The first five on the "Right Bias" list are 100 Percent Fed Up, Accuracy in Media (AIM), Allen B. West, Allen West Republic, and American Enterprise Institute.

The first five on "Pro-Science" list are Air & Space Magazine, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), American Journal of Archaeology, Archaeology Magazine, and Ars Technica.

The first five on the "Conspiracy-Pseudoscience" list are 21st Century Wire, 369News, A Sheep No More, ACN Latitudes, and Activist Post.

The first five on the "Satire/Fake News" list are 70 News, AbcNews.com.co, Amplifying Glass, Atomic Monkey, and Borowitz Report.

Hopefully there's lots of critical thinking ahead.

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

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.

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